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.
In the 1990s, 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.
As I sit here in my office this morning, the spring sun is shining and a cool wind blows through the branches of the white pine outside my window. Over by our educational wetland I see a class of 5th graders from a New Haven Public school who are here for a field trip. One of Common Ground’s Environmental Educators is about to lead them up the hill into West Rock Ridge State Park to see first-hand the forest ecosystems they have been learning about in their classroom. Another group of New Haven Public School students is up in the educational gardens, about to visit our worm bin to learn about decomposition and soils. Further up the hill in our Outdoor Classroom I can picture the 20 Nature Year kids who spend one day a week with us throughout the school year busily engaged in an outdoor immersion experience. Nature Year kids spend all day outside engaged in a program designed to reinforce the work they do in their classrooms the remainder of the week. Meanwhile, our own Common Ground High School students are hard at work making art, studying science, practicing math and writing papers in preparation for life after high school – well, with the exception of the Documenting New Haven class that is out touring New Haven neighborhoods today for direct experience with the city they are learning about in depth as part of their educational experience.
Whether it is on our farm, in the park, in a New Haven neighborhood or in one of our classrooms, the work we do at Common Ground is about learning. Our site and our programs are designed to actively engage people of all ages with their environment, with their communities, and with each other, in ways that increase knowledge, skill, confidence and understanding. We use our urban farm, the surrounding forest, and the city of New Haven to engage our community in a unique learning experience, one that is both conceptual and experiential, one that changes thinking and behavior, one that is challenging and joyful, one that is often transformational. I see the joy every day on the faces of school children visiting our sites. I watch the transformation of our high school students as they engage with our site, and with their community. I hear from parents how meaningful participation in Nature Year has been for the lives of their children. Transformative learning comes with meaningful engagement and connection. At Common Ground this is what we strive for – creating meaningful, joyful experiences that contribute to learning for all who come to our site and join in our programs. Come see for yourself…you would be welcome!
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.
Today’s culinary landscape is structured by food studies research, rich with edible options, and politically highly evolved. There is incredible range of resources now devoted to supporting a healthier planet, healthier bodies, and tastier meals. Yet there is still incredible need particularly around food choices and health, and that reality assails us everywhere. Committing to Common Ground is a promise for future generations: I’ll try to make healthier choices now for a better planet later. It is the carrot over the cookie as often as possible. Or at least the carrot along with the cookie. It is a commitment to the early believers at The New Haven Ecology Project who dreamed of Common Ground and to a city that made it possible and where those healthier options and that rhetoric should be inescapable.
Common Ground is, once again, growing something new, despite major public policy challenges and a difficult funding environment. With a brand new school building built with more than $2 million in private support and $8 million in public support, Common Ground has the physical facilities needed to meet the increased demand for its programs. Now, despite major financial obstacles, we remain idealistic. Together with students, their parents, and our wider community, we are tackling not just the threats to the natural environment, but the threats to our community posed by structural racism and other systems of oppression, to ensure that all members of the Common Ground community and New Haven are engaged, feel safe, and are valued in the important work of the organization.
- # 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.
Common Ground's Schoolyards Resource Center works with more than 16 New Haven Public Schools helping design and build school gardens and bird habitats that can be used as outdoor hands-on educational laboratories. The Center partners with nonprofits in other urban areas of CT to provide technical assistance statewide.
Our vision for Teach Our Cities is that urban public high schools across our region mobilize active, authentic learning experiences, rooted in urban environmental issues, to help students develop mastery of challenging state and national academic standards. They work with community organizations and residents to turn the urban environment into a textbook, classroom, and “teacher” for city students. These schools and their students will become engines for addressing issues related to urban waters, air quality, toxins, and other environmental justice challenges. Students at these schools will climb clear and varied ladders to environmental careers, creating pathways out of poverty and allowing them to thrive as life-long environmental stewards, creating a generation of environmental leaders that reflects the racial, economic, and cultural diversity of our urban communities. We aim to model a regional approach to capacity-building through this learning 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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