From the start, our founders and supporters aimed to break new ground and change lives in our community.
In the 1980s, community members and educators came together with shared purpose: connect city residents to the natural world, grow healthy food in our community, and change the way we educate our children.
On 20 acres of city park land, Common Ground’s founders cleared tons of garbage and rebuilt a historic farmhouse.
They planted the state’s longest-running community farm, and launched a wide array of community and environmental programs – including a summer camp, after school programs, green jobs opportunities, and workshops for families.
In 1997, our founders opened the nation’s first environmental charter school, now a leader among the 300+ environmental public schools across the country. In 2008, the students of Common Ground began six years of dramatic test score gains -- including the largest of any Connecticut high school in 2010.
In 2010, Common Ground convened a broad group of students, parents, and community partners to design a plan for the use of this unique 20-acre site. The resulting plan for our future imagined Common Ground could change more lives and step forward as a national leader.
Planting seeds, growing leaders, cultivating community. The diverse Common Ground community of children, young people, and adults is doing transformational work on many levels in New Haven. Last year, the four-year graduation rate at Common Ground High School surpassed the state average by 5 points and 92% of our graduates were accepted to college. When the children in our after-school programs and summer camps go home, more than 50% are more willing to try new, healthy foods, and more than 90% demonstrate new sustainable behaviors, according to surveys of their parents. We see our 20 acre site -- an urban farm, at the base of a forested state park, within a city -- as an irreplaceable community resource, and as a catalyst for community change. More than 13,000 people visited Common Ground for an educational program last year.
Common Ground held its Farm Festival and Seedling Sale on a gorgeous Saturday in May this year. It was the 18thseedling sale in its history and the fourth in my tenure as Executive Director. I spent the day welcoming both old and new friends, filling in where needed, and reflecting on our community as I observed the goings on. The day provided a unique sense of who and what Common Ground is. Nearly 1,000 people from across the New Haven region came to visit. There was a constant flow of humanity in and out of our greenhouses, which held a wide variety of seedlings carefully cultivated by our Farm Manager for sale. Two Master Gardeners, a Summer Camp parent, and the Coordinator of after school programs at Common Ground High School spent the day as volunteers helping people find just the right variety of tomato or pepper. Over 40 of our high school students also helped out. Some watched over our chickens, goats, sheep, and three very inquisitive pigs as kids and adults alike enjoyed developing new found friendships with them. Students in our Environmental Ventures program sold the compost, microgreens and herb pots they had produced as part of learning to run a business. Meanwhile, dozens of children and toddlers stayed busy blowing bubbles, digging in the compost, playing with hula hoops, climbing on the tractor, splashing in water (A friend of mine with a 2 year old commented that Common Ground is the hot new toddler hang-out). As all this was going on the Parent Leadership Team cooked up local organic burgers for lunch to raise money for the high school.
Looking around that day I saw an interesting, diverse and dynamic community made up of people of many different ages, ethnicities and walks of life. There were people who know Common Ground through its college preparatory charter high school; there were parents and children from our Summer Camp and after-school programs. There were people who know the work of our urban farm and our involvement in building a robust local food system. There were people there simply because they like visiting our site -- some are here every weekend sitting in the shade during open farm day, watching the antics of our chickens while they discuss the week’s news. Despite the varied interests, passions and backgrounds of the people who make up Common Ground’s community, it feels cohesive and whole. It is a uniquely vibrant community with strong connections to education and the environment, and a passionate concern for social justice. It is a community I am proud to be a part of, and that I hope you will also consider joining.
Before the No Child Left Inside, the No Child Left Behind, the school gardens, the food deserts, school lunch politics, farm to table dinners, and the healthy foods non-profits, an idealistic bunch of young and not so young teachers, farmers, and environmentalists believed they could make students better stewards of the planet and of their own bodies. Earnestly deploying maxims like “there is no away” and imbuing classes with lessons in culinary capitalism, the believers helped students to see the impact their choices had on the city of New Haven and their own personal health. And it wasn’t long before they were convincing others too through summer camps, community programs, and finally a charter school.
- # of program participants; demographic data on these participants.
- % of community program participants demonstrating increases in environmental understanding, commitments, and behaviors.
- % of students demonstrating proficiency on state-wide tests, showing improvement on common formative assessments, and reaching proficient/goal on school-wide benchmark assessments.
- % of students graduating on time, accepted to college, and graduating within 4 years.
- Pounds of organic produce contributed to the local food system; % of produce going to free student lunches, city farmers markets, and food insecure New Haven residents.
In 2012, Common Ground
and the Green Village Initiative – two organizations with strong track records
of creating and mobilizing school gardens as educational resources – came
together to launch a comprehensive School Garden Resource Center. The Center’s
mission is to support the effective use of edible gardens in schools and
educational settings throughout Connecticut. The Center accomplishes this by
making it possible for champions of educational gardens to build and sustain
gardens that are deeply integrated into the curriculum and learning environment
of schools and other educational institutions – leading ultimately to a garden
in every school in the state and a strong, cohesive community of garden
educators. The long-term vision
of the Center is to have educational gardens become an important feature of
Connecticut’s educational system, providing all children in Connecticut with
the opportunity to learn through direct, varied and cumulative experiences with
the source of their food that lead to healthy and sustainable choices for
themselves and their community.
Common Ground's work is rooted in community -- and in ongoing, results-driven partnerships with others that share our commitment to New Haven. For example:
• Common Ground's Green Jobs Corps places young people in paid leadership and work experiences at Solar Youth, New Haven Farms, CitySeed, and the Urban Resources Initiative -- fueling these organizations' work and supporting young people's development.• Common Ground is the lead organizer on Rock to Rock -- New Haven's largest Earth Day celebration, raising support for two dozen different local environmental groups. Last year, 1100 riders raised more than $150,000.• Common Ground is an active partner in efforts to promote food security. For instance, Common Ground is working with CitySeed to operate a mobile farm market reaching food insecure communities across New Haven.• Common Ground has built partnerships with Southern Connecticut State University, Yale University, Elm Shakespeare, and other partners to provide supports to our high school students.• The CT School Garden Resource Center -- a program of Common Ground -- is supporting educational gardens and schoolyard habitats in dozens of schools and child care providers across the state.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
This profile, including the financial summaries prepared and submitted by the organization based on its own independent and/or internal audit processes and regulatory submissions, has been read by the Foundation. Financial information is inputted by Foundation staff directly from the organization’s IRS Form 990, audited financial statements or other financial documents approved by the nonprofit’s board. The Foundation has not audited the organization’s financial statements or tax filings, and makes no representations or warranties thereon. The Community Foundation is continuing to receive information submitted by the organization and may periodically update the organization’s profile to reflect the most current financial and other information available. The organization has completed the fields required by The Community Foundation and updated their profile in the last year. To see if the organization has received a competitive grant from The Community Foundation in the last five years, please go to the General Information Tab of the profile.
Educate a child and you change a community. For the child, a good education means better career opportunities and higher lifetime earnings. College graduates enjoy better health and are more inclined to volunteer and vote. For the community, supporting our youths’ educational goals results in a stronger society.
Stewardship of our natural resources is essential if we wish to guarantee that present and future generations enjoy clean water, good air quality and open spaces. When you support organizations that protect the environment you address immediate need today while ensuring a greener tomorrow.
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