Community Environmental College: History & Background

Community Environmental College

Download: Program History Report (2012)

CEC in sand

History & Background

The Community Environmental College (CEC) is our flagship summer youth program.  First launched in 2009, the CEC is now entering it’s 6th year.  The CEC is an 8 week summer program that develops critical environmental thinking skills with teenagers (age 13-19) in Rhode Island. In an interactive and transformative summer learning environment, students learn about environmental issues that impact them directly including toxicants, air pollution, waste, food systems, climate change, and more. Students also learn about social inequalities (based on race, class, gender, etc) that are connected to environmental injustice and explore ways to take leadership and address these problems.  CEC students are predominately youth of color from low-income families that live in the core urban areas of Rhode Island. The program is free to all participants, who also receive a small stipend along with their diploma upon graduation. Students are provided with healthy home-cooked lunch during each day of the program, which is prepared by the teachers and TAs (teaching assistants).

class time

Program Goal

By providing teenagers from a range of urban schools in RI with a high quality educational summer program about a range of environmental justice issues, the CEC will help create a new generation of environmental leaders with the potential to take action to improve their environment and transform their communities in a sustainable and long-term way. The CEC integrates youth leadership in the structure and fabric of the program: All graduating students present their action projects at graduation; former CEC graduates are hired as teaching assistants (TAs); former TAs applied to be teachers and co-taught classes with adult mentors.

class time 1

The CEC is an integral part of training a generation of youth environmental justice leaders. CEC graduates are recruited to join ECO Youth, a year-round after school program which gives students the opportunity to apply the knowledge gained in the CEC and be trained as educators and community organizers.

2012 CEC flyer english

CEC 2012: A successful summer and glorious graduation!

The Community Environmental College, our flagship summer youth program, keeps getting better and better!  This year we tripled students’ class time, having them participate for 3 full days a week for 8 weeks over the summer.  We had great success with developing youth leadership within the program itself: 6 former students worked all summer long as Teacher Assistants (TAs), and 3 former TAs were hired as class teachers, for a total teaching/TA team of 15 people:

After a summer full of learning, fun and games, field trips, and science experiments in balloon mapping and building thermal flashlights, we had students create final projects to share what they learned with the world.  All graduating students presented their projects to friends and family during a beautiful graduation celebration at Brown University’s Sayles Hall, with over 200 people attending!

We’re so proud of all the youth who participated in the CEC this summer, whether as students, TAs, or teachers. They are the inspiration and reason for why we do what we do – they aren’t just the leaders of tomorrow, they are the environmental justice leaders of today!

2011 CEC: 3 classes and 50 total students

Environmental Justice:

  • Description: Learn how to be a leader in your community to make your environment better!  We’ll cover important environmental issues like toxics in our community, environmental racism, climate change, landfills and waste.  Then you’ll choose an action to take to make a difference on an issue you care about most!

Food Justice

  • Description: Where does our food come from?  Why are McDonald’s hamburgers so cheap?  Why are so many kids in the U.S. getting diabetes?  Find out answers to these questions and more!   We’ll talk about where our food comes from, how it gets to us, who has access to the best and worst food, and how our food choices affect our environment and our health.  Then you’ll decide on an action to take to put more justice in our food system!

Check out “Homemade….and Secretly Delicious”, a blog created by students in the 2011 CEC, to learn great recipes to cook and enjoy at home!

Leadership, Media and the Arts

  • Description: You don’t have to wait till you “grow up” to be a leader.  Learn what it
    takes to be an environmental educator and community organizer, and use a creative toolbox to amplify your message: video, music, visual art, multimedia presentations, guerrilla theatre… endless possibilities! This class will also be working on making a documentary video about our Green D(RI)VE bus that runs on vegetable oil.

2010 CEC


CEC 2010 was great!  Check the Food Justice class blog JUST BITE to learn more about what we were up to last summer.

Download the CEC 2010 Brochure

In Summer 2009 the CEC offered its first courses, “Environmental Justice 101”, and an eco-home Redecorating project, “Room by Room”.  Read more…

“Environmental Justice 101”–  EJ 101

With seven dedicated students, the CEC’s “EJ 101” class was fun and eventful.  The participants came from several schools around Providence, and together they explored issues like food justice, sustainability, toxics in the community, climate change, and air pollution.  They also learned how to be activists and leaders in their communities, especially among their peers.

Together the participants selected a topic that they cared strongly about-  food justice- and put together an awesome video to help raise awareness about the problems, and the possible solutions.  To see the video, see below or click on this link.

“Room by Room”

Room by Room is an eco-home redecorating show where ten Rhode Island high school students participated in 6 weeks of eco-design bootcamp to become the best eco-designer for a chance to win a healthy home makeover!


2 Responses

  1. what is the name of the song at the end of this video?

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