Teresa Docherty, Program Manager for Earth Force, answered our questions:
What do you want people to know about Earth Force and/or it’s causes?
Earth Force works to engage young people as active citizens who improve their communities and the environment, now and in the future. We work to unite communities around empowering young people, primarily in underserved communities, to be leaders toward change.
What was your first impression of Earth Force?
I started working with Earth Force as an AmeriCorps*VISTA in November of 2009. After I got my first glimpse of the work that Earth Force does and the effect that the process has on young people who experience it, I remember thinking how much I wished I had the opportunity to participate in Earth Force when I was in K-12 school. I realized almost immediately that a top priority in my work would be to get as many young people involved in this experience as I could.
What influenced you to work with Earth Force?
As an organization, Earth Force doesn’t simply rescue young people from poverty. We provide youth with the tools and confidence to lead and transform their communities. It is incredible how quickly students jump on board when they realize they’re in control of making a positive impact in their community.
What has surprised you most about working with Earth Force?
I was surprised by how much the young people run the show! As an organization, we work to build partnership to support their work, but more often than not, the students are one step ahead of us, making connections with big players in the community to get their projects off the ground.
What do you find most challenging about working Earth Force?
Getting communities as a whole to allow youth to act as leaders. I think as adults, we are so used to having the control, and Earth Force is really asking for a role reversal. We want young people to lead their community, instead of their community leading them.
Who are some of the interesting people you’ve met while working at Earth Force?
I think the most interesting group of people I’ve met is a group of students from Chester, PA. They wanted to address the drop out crisis in Philadelphia, as well as provide a potential solution for other high schools. As a group, they decided to research possible alternatives to traditional education, inside a school building. They reached out to Agora K-12 Cyber Charter School and discovered that they could still get a quality education at home. As a group, they educated their peers and at the beginning on the 2010 school year, had twelve students registered for the coming year, who otherwise, may have decided to drop out of school. They decided to take the power of their education into their own hands, and I would say it definitely paid off.
What do you think will change about Earth Force or its causes in the next five years?
Our organization is constantly evolving based on the educational and environmental climate. Based on the direction we are already moving, we will continue to focus on building sustainable, community engagement. So, training and supporting educators and the surrounding community to a point where working together with a cohesive, collaborative mindset toward engaging young people as active citizens will be ingrained in the way they interact as a community every day.
What would you say to someone thinking about donating, volunteering, etc?
We have great opportunities for anyone to get involved and see these incredible young people in action. Whether you have a background in a STEM career, urban gardening, or just wanting to get involved in engaging youth, we are always looking for more ways to connect youth to their community. One really fun opportunity is our youth summit, where all the young people we’ve worked with throughout the year get together to celebration their accomplishments and cheer on their peers. They present their projects through song, dance, skits and information talks. It’s a day filled with fun and learning. Anyone interested in finding out more about these opportunities, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Earth Force engages young people as active citizens who improve the environment and their communities now and in the future. They believe that real change happens in communities when stakeholders come together to form a common agenda. By bringing together school districts, community based organizations, corporations, communities of faith and institutions of higher education, Earth Force works to create a coordinated effort to engage young people.