The Green City Force Community Meeting

 

Green City Academy and the Community Meeting

It isn’t called Green City Force for nothing. The dictionary says that a “force” is a physical energy or power. Green City Force Corpsmembers show their power through their ability to educate people and make a real difference in how low-income New Yorkers consume energy. They display power by making a real difference in the lives of community members through service projects that range from food distribution at a local soup kitchen to Hurricane Sandy disaster cleanup. Corpsmembers also show power in their commitment to the Green City Force program and to each other. The main vehicle through which they express this commitment is the GCF Community meeting. 

Once a week, Corpsmembers gather for Green City Academy and the Community Meeting. Green City Academy, the classroom component of GCF, involves preparing Corpsmembers for green careers and higher education by helping them brush up on math and literacy skills and teaching them basic job readiness skills. Corpsmembers spend the day completing reading and writing assignments, meeting with career counselors, and working through the Roots of Success eco-literacy curriculum. All Corpsmembers also prepare for the Building Performance Institute certification needed for a career in energy efficiency auditing.

With just one day a week to cover classroom material and help Corpsmembers work towards their AmeriCorps Education Awards, Green City Academy can be very busy. The entire day isn’t spent in front of a whiteboard, however; for about one hour, after the books are put away, all Green City Force Corpsmembers and staff gather for the Community Meeting. The meeting is a chance for people to openly discuss their thoughts about the program and speak candidly about concerns or issues they have.

Everyone does not participate in the same meeting; for instance, the roughly two dozen EmPower Corpsmembers and their Team Leaders meet separately from the rest of the group. The EmPower Community Meeting begins with Announcements and a chance to discuss what the team accomplished over the previous week. This week, several Corpsmembers who had the chance to shadow building efficiency auditors talked about how they got hands on training in plastering, foam insulation installation, and window installation. Other Corpsmembers talk about how they met with the Green City Force Board of Directors earlier in the week.

Later in the meeting, it’s time for the Feedback Session. Corpsmembers and staff speak directly to one another and either give praise, or give positive reinforcement along with a suggestion for improvement. Corpsmembers encourage their peers to stay focused and not lose sight of their goals. They might use this opportunity to publically apologize to someone, to tell a friend that he needs to take the job more seriously, or to let someone know that they’re doing a good job. This open, honest communication allows for stronger bonding and more productive relationships. The Feedback Session also helps remind Corpsmembers why they came to the Corps in the first place; hearing personalized encouragement or concern from a peer might be just the right motivation a Corpsmember needs to get him or herself through the program.

Another section of the Community Meeting offers a chance for people to share their “hopes.” Corpsmembers and staff pass around a tiny potted tree and “water” the plant with their hopes for themselves, fellow crewmembrers, and the program. Corpsmembers that want to share a hope wait for their turn to hold the pot and stand in the middle of the group to speak. The whole process is professional and the hopes people share are insightful and sincere. Some of the hopes are very specific, while some of them apply to the whole group. This week, several Corpsmembers expressed the hope that everyone in the EmPower team would continue to grow and learn. One Corpsmember, who had seen Green City Force alumni warmly welcomed whenever they returned to visit their old supervisors, hoped for a day when he could make a triumphant return to Green City Force. Another Corpsmember who was concerned that he and his peers sometimes lacked motivation, expressed the hope that everyone on the team remain committed to the program and graduate with a sense of accomplishment.

“GCF is like a family. We do training and service and things like that, but at the end of the day we all come together because we’re a force. We’re a force moving towards the same goal,” he said. “We’re supposed to enjoy our time here because we’re here to learn. It’s only six months; it’s not like we’re going to be locked with each other forever. But we came together with a common goal and I feel like sometimes people lose that value. So my hope this week is that we can all appreciate what GCF is intended to give us.”