Saturday’s Green Apple Day of Service was, as usual, a full-force show of strength. Helping hands around the world got to work on an issue close to home for us all: where our children learn matters. This year, the day held a different level of significance for some of USGBC’s staff, as we focused our service projects on "Bringing Up Girls."
Bringing Up Girls is a USGBC initiative that aims to cultivate sustainable leadership among adolescent girls and equip them with the confidence, knowledge and support they need to create a more resilient and sustainable world. Since May, female USGBC staff have been mentoring local Girl Scouts to imagine, design and execute girl-led service projects in their community. Cecilia Shutters and I have had the distinct privilege of creating and directing the initiative, and it has been pure community magic.
USGBC has a very deep bench of incredibly smart, driven and talented women organization-wide. In the building industry more broadly, though, the gender gap is pronounced in many pivotal STEM-related fields. Last year at Greenbuild, our community told us that they wanted USGBC to take a leadership role in starting to bridge those gaps. So, this year we started at the very beginning of the proverbial pipeline.
The girls we mentored are bold and brilliant, and I think I can speak for the mentors when I say we learned as much from them as they did from us. We’ve started a conversation about mentorship that should serve as a catalyst for our community. Who can I help? Who can I reach out to? This initiative drove home the point that people really do inherently want to help, and if you need lifting up, sometimes all you need to do is ask.
The mentor/mentee pairs met mostly at USGBC headquarters, but we did have one full day at camp. We sang songs, made s’mores in solar ovens, and some of the most powerful stars in the USGBC sky spoke to the girls about the importance of working hard and believing in yourself.
On Saturday the girls, joined by their mentors, completed their Green Apple Day of Service projects. I was lucky to be able to see three of these projects in action. Georgia, supported by her mentor Haley Warson, completed a water efficiency project and placed aerators in the faucets throughout her school. They put up educational signs so people could learn about what the aerators did and why it was important. Julia, supported by her mentor Kelly Worden, got parents to commit to no longer idling in their cars while they waited in the school pick-up line. She even made stickers for car windows so the parents could proudly display their commitment! Olivia, supported by her mentor Cindy Zork, built a beautiful butterfly garden near a trail that’s close to her school and very well trafficked.
One comment that Georgia made struck me. She said “I didn’t know there were so many jobs that you could do that also help save the world.” I won’t say that I always feel like a superhero working at USGBC, but I definitely did on Saturday.
We are so thankful to be witnessing the fierce strength the next generation will contribute to that end, in addition to the generous spirit of colleagues I’m thankful to see every day, saving the world in their way.
We’re happy to announce that we will be celebrating the hard work of these girls at the Women in Green Power breakfast at Greenbuild, so if you see a Girl Scout sash attached to an indomitable spirit, congratulate her on her Bringing Up Girls project.