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What a joy showcase season is at EcoRise. For several weeks this spring, our team and community supporters had the pleasure of joining EcoRise youth and educators to learn about the sustainability and climate resilience work they have been undertaking in their communities this school year. With five regional events across the U.S., we ended the school year celebrating Eco-Audit Grant awardees, including first-graders growing food for their school community, sixth-graders who created an AI computer program to help their peers sort waste, high schoolers organizing for local environmental justice issues, youth council members combating food insecurity by organizing local food drives, and much more.

Student Innovation Showcases put a compelling face to the behind-the-scenes work EcoRise educators and staff do year-round to activate youth as problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and environmental stewards. EcoRise students showed up to their showcase events excited to be featured and ready to speak to adults ranging from parents to city council members, and even San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Throughout the evening at each event, you could see the students lose their jittery energy and beam brighter with confidence and joy each time they explained their projects. Community members left the showcases having learned new environmental knowledge and in awe of the impact students aged 5 to 19 have been creating in their communities.

The 63 student teams who showcased across the country (plus so many more Eco-Audit Grant teams that were unable to attend!) are the next generation of leaders who are designing healthy, just, and sustainable solutions to help everyone in their communities thrive. Expand the sections below to explore the magic of each of our regional events from Showcase Season 2024.

Inaugural South Texas Showcase

EcoRise has been supporting South Texas educators to sow deep seeds of environmental education since 2018. After our start-up years and making it through pandemic-time learning, we were thrilled to introduce the local community to EcoRise with our Inaugural South Texas Student Innovation Showcase at the Region One Education Service Center on May 23rd! Students in South Texas have a special love for family and community, and the passion and care of 10 student teams from Mission CISD and PSJA ISD shined through as we learned about their projects, from building permeable berms that reduce erosion and improve water management on campus to creating sustainable care backpacks to gift to people experiencing homelessness.

Special guest speakers, Dr. Daniel King, Executive Director of Region One, and Marianella Franklin, Chief Sustainability Officer for the University of Texas RGV, shared inspiring words about how the students’ work today would benefit them in their futures as they reap the benefits of a healthier society and perhaps even a green career. We are grateful to Region One for hosting and Eddie Vela Construction for sponsoring #STXshowcase24. These students’ work was brought to life thanks to partnerships with H-E-B and Transcend. Check out a video recap of this first-of-many event below.

2nd Annual Atlanta Showcase

Community service was the prevailing theme of the 2nd Annual Atlanta Student Innovation Showcase held at the Decatur Recreation Center on May 9th. Parents, teachers, and community advocates joined us to celebrate and learn from bright and caring Decatur City Schools and Dekalb County School students who were awarded Eco-Audit Grants. We learned about leathercrafting and upcycling from the Livsey Elementary fifth graders who participated in the Southwest Airlines’ Repurpose with a Purpose Goes to School Program. They repurposed aircraft seat leather donated by Southwest into fantastic creations like wallets, keychains, coasters, and bookmarks. After the Showcase, they held a name-your-own-price fundraiser and raised $240 for the LifeLine Animal Project.

Winnona Park Elementary students also blew us away! Multiple student teams are working to increase biodiversity and the native bird population of their school grounds and improve their dilapidated school gardens with the goal of growing more than 400 pounds of fresh fruits and veggies. These students are excited to eat the food they grow and donate the leftovers to community members in need.

We’re grateful to our partners, MetLife Foundation and Southwest Airlines, for supporting schools in our growing Atlanta region.

5th Annual Washington, DC Showcase

The largest group of student presenters in the history of EcoRise Showcases captivated our Washington, DC metro area community on June 6th at Duke Ellington School of the Arts. 20 teams of young innovators from kindergarten to high school seniors buzzed with excitement as they shared their social impact projects with the community. We learned about aquaponics, fighting plastic waste, growing food, and much more from these compassionate leaders. This showcase also featured the first two environmental justice-focused Eco-Audit Grant projects ever awarded by EcoRise. Barnard Elementary 5th graders showcased what they learned about water equity issues in DC, how they created an educational campaign to connect their school to the issues, and how they are ensuring students have access to water with their grants. Friendship Technology Prep highschoolers organized, created the Global Advocates group, and have been educating their peers about local EJ issues affecting everything from student health to community access to resources. They have been using their grant to grow their educational campaign, creating informational posters, going on the morning announcements, and writing columns in school newsletters.

This incredible night was made successful by our supporters. We are grateful to Teacher Ambassador Lauren Williams and Duke Ellington for hosting. A big shoutout to Teacher Ambassador Octavia Wolf for delivering inspiring opening remarks. We appreciate Duke Ellington seniors Cire and Locke of Elemental Studios (@_elemental.studios on Instagram) for capturing the event and Metlife Foundation volunteers for assisting with setup and cleanup. And special thanks to our partners, DC Public Schools and Southwest Airlines, for supporting DMV-area students to be environmental changemakers this school year.

6th Annual San Antonio Showcase

The 6th Annual San Antonio Student Innovation Showcase buzzed with energy as 14 K–12 student teams from school districts, charter, and private schools from across the metro area taught us how they took climate action on May 16th at the University of Texas SA Downtown campus. We enjoyed learning about a range of projects, from kindergarteners preparing their vermicomposting worms to handle 3,000 pounds of school food waste per year to middle schoolers designing rainwater catchment and irrigation systems for their school gardens. This year’s Showcase featured special guests, the San Antonio Mayor’s Youth Engagement Council for Climate Initiatives. Council members worked with the San Antonio Food Bank, the San Antonio River Foundation, San Antonio College’s Eco Centro, and the Garcia Street Urban Farm over the school year to learn varied approaches to climate resilience. They used what they learned to create community micro-initiatives, including designing workshops to promote community health, hosting food drives, creating pollinator gardens, and teaching people to create seed balls to promote biodiversity in neighborhoods with little green space.

Youth council member Saadhana Vijay kicked off the showcase remarks discussing how her time on the council has impacted her personal journey in being a community advocate. Saadhana passed the mic to San Antonio Assistant City Manager David McCary and Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Mayor Nirenberg spoke about the impact of the youth council, from idea to transformational experience, for San Antonio’s young people. He praised the innovative projects that were on display and honored the students for having a real-world impact and making San Antonio #SAClimateReady. We are grateful to the City of San Antonio, Mayor Ron Nirenberg, the City of San Antonio Office of Sustainability, and the Hollomon Price Foundation for supporting EcoRise programs and connecting these young leaders with the resources to bring their bright ideas to life!

8th Annual Central Texas Showcase

Our longest-running showcase was no exception to the innovation and impact students are having in their communities! 11 student teams from Austin ISD, Del Valle ISD, Leander ISD, Manor ISD, and Round Rock ISD presented their climate resilience projects at Austin’s City Hall on May 9th. We were amazed by kinder-gardeners, middle schoolers creating a machine learning program to help their community sort waste, and high schoolers organizing with Festival Beach Food Forest to preserve green spaces. This year’s Central Texas Showcase also featured the Austin Youth Climate Equity Council. Council members presented the work they completed with frontline organizations—The Black Mama’s Village and the Village Place, DAWA, Festival Beach Food Forest, Pecan Street, Inc., and PODER—that helped each organization build capacity for engaging the community in their work and allowed students the opportunity to be community advocates.

Council member Annika Wood Akinmusuru kicked off the Showcase remarks sharing the deep impact that the Council has had on her trajectory as a climate activist. Guest speakers Mary Priddy, the City of Austin Office of Sustainability’s Education and Outreach Coordinator, and Sharon Mays, Austin City Council Member Harper-Madison’s Chief of Staff, shared admiration and kudos with the youth leaders in attendance, uplifting them for their impact over the year and their impact to come. We’re grateful to our partners, Austin ISD, the City of Austin Office of Sustainability, H-E-B, and Southwest Airlines for supporting the work of Central Texas schools and the Austin Youth Climate Equity Council this school year.

Virtual Showcases

This year, EcoRise also facilitated five virtual showcases, which provided a platform for students in regions without in-person events to share their Eco-Audit Grant work. Two student teams from UCLA Lab School in Los Angeles, CA shared their research and design considerations for building a greenhouse to propagate plants and installing a new pollinator garden for their school community. Miami’s Robert Renick Educational Center students taught us the benefits of being outside and growing your own food through their projects which are beautifying outdoor space on campus and improving their school’s food forest. From New York City, PS 199 Jesse Isidor Straus Elementary students shared how they are transforming 300 square feet of unused green space into a school pollinator garden. And NYC Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School students shared their research looking into the role humans play in causing and solving climate change.

Our California, Florida, and New York students virtually presented their grant projects and impact to green professionals who volunteered to help celebrate and provide feedback on their work. Thank you to our volunteers from Climate First Bank, the Environmental Protection Agency, MetLife Foundation, the NYC Department of Education, and the University of California Los Angeles for supporting these young leaders!

What a great Showcase Season it was to witness the ingenuity and passion of EcoRise students! Thanks to our partners, our endlessly dedicated teachers, and our devoted community partners, EcoRise programs are creating empathetic and kind young leaders with sharp, creative, and environmentally-minded problem-solving skills. To help bring our programs and Eco-Audit Grants to more student leaders, donate today.