From Fellowship Project to Thriving Nonprofit - NYCEarth's Remarkable Growth in Greening NYC
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From Fellowship Project to Thriving Nonprofit - NYCEarth's Remarkable Growth in Greening NYC

The Climate Leaders Fellowship is a teen enrichment program that teaches students about climate change and environmental sustainability, and guides them in designing and launching a volunteer project in their own communities.

The climate program for high school students is offered as a collaboration between the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

Read about Tabor’s impactful experience below!

Tabor Axelrod Paoli
Age 16
Brooklyn, New York
Millennium Brooklyn High School

My name is Tabor Axelrod Paoli. I’m sixteen years old, and I’ve lived in Brooklyn my entire life. I am a practical optimist, meaning I believe with the correct approach anyone can find meaningful solutions to the problems faced by our world.

I couldn’t help but notice that despite the large amount of funding given to the Parks and Rec department for the NYC Million Trees Initiative, there seemed to be a lot of vacant tree beds.

This is why I created NYCEarth. NYCEarth is a nonprofit organization with the purpose of mobilizing high school students to get trees planted around NYC. We empower teen voices and encourage development from just gaining volunteer hours for school to meaningfully leading change in one’s community.

We work by systematically sweeping neighborhoods for trees, logging their locations and then calling them into 311 using the NYC Million Trees Initiative. This systematizes the process, allowing funding allocated to this initiative to be used effectively and actually see implementation. NYCEarth works intramurally across four Brooklyn schools, having gotten 118 street trees planted to date.

NYCEarth started three years ago as a small-scale project for the Climate Leaders Fellowship. At that time, I really had no idea how we were going to accomplish something on such a wide scale.

This is about when I reached out to a local nonprofit organization, Beautify Brooklyn, for advice. I met with the founder, Robert Elstein, and we discussed possibilities for implementing, as well as what would or wouldn’t be practical to complete at scale.

Since then, NYCEarth has worked alongside Beautify Brooklyn and is in the process of merging into one 501(c)(3) status organization in the near future. We have grown a lot since last year’s pilot study, and I am continuously amazed at what we are able to accomplish.

I don’t think any of this would have been possible without the help of the Climate Leaders Fellowship. It’s hard to overstate how valuable the resources and guidance were to developing NYCEarth.

Being able to work back and forth with peers undergoing similar processes and overcoming similar challenges was insanely beneficial. Some of their standalone events like the Introduction to Social Marketing really helped me develop a practical foundation that has supported me in and out of NYCEarth.

Even the indirect effects like agency in time management and organizing small events make all the difference in whether or not a task feels overwhelming. The Climate Leader’s Fellowship has changed my life for the better. I am honored to be a part of it, and I can’t wait for the next cycle.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.