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Kind Leadership Series | Earth Force

By: Julia, Riley’s Way Council Member, The Nightingale-Bamford School

Despite the unusual circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Riley’s Way continues to spread kindness and empathy throughout its community in new ways.  On Wednesday, March 25th, Riley’s Way held their second Kind Leadership Series virtual session on Zoom.  The call, organized by Program Director Laura Kikuchi, was a great way to connect the greater Riley’s Way community while respecting social distancing guidelines.

We were lucky to be joined by Grace Edinger, Senior Manager Strategic Projects of Earth Force, as she was interviewed by Riley’s Way intern Ashley Lin.  Earth Force, an international nonprofit, engages youth as active citizens who strive to improve the environment and their communities.  During the call, Grace explained how the organization’s six-step Community Action and Problem Solving Process uses civic engagement, environmental education, and STEM to help young people identify, research, and complete a civic action project that they are passionate about.  The first step, and possibly the most important, is to take a community inventory by walking through a set community and asking a series of questions to identify its environmental strengths and weaknesses.  The subsequent steps – issue selection, research, strategy selection, taking action, and reviewing success – use the information gathered from the community inventory to make a meaningful change involving an issue the individual or group is passionate about.

I was captivated by Grace’s many examples of passionate students able to enact meaningful change in their communities, both big and small, through the Community Action and Problem Solving Process.  One example I found particularly compelling was a group of middle school students who, through taking a community inventory, found that new legislation in their community only required recycling bins to be placed outside of single-unit homes.  The students found that if recycling bins were to be placed outside of multi-unit homes as well, the community would be able to produce much less waste.  To solve the problem, these students used the Community Action and Problem Solving Process to take action and amend the legislation to include multi-unit homes.  These students inspire me to take strides towards bettering my community and the environment as they prove that anyone, whether old enough to vote or not, can enact meaningful change through hard work and perseverance.  After the call, I was inspired to participate in the Earth Day Eco Challenge, a project that connects environmental changemakers worldwide to document eco-friendly strides during the month of April.  I have also since signed up to buy groceries for those in my building unable to leave their apartments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though Earth Force acts primarily with classes and larger groups to take environmental action in larger communities, their Community Action and Problem Solving Process can be used by groups of all sizes or individuals to create change in various types of communities.  In fact, I found the process very similar to how Riley’s Way Youth Advisory Councils determine their annual project each year.  I am so grateful to have had the experience of learning about Earth Force and their problem solving process and am confident that Grace’s interview inspired many, such as myself, to take action in their communities.  Thank you so much to Grace Edinger, Ashley Lin, and Laura Kikuchi for conducting Riley’s Way’s Kind Leadership virtual session!