This Teen-Led Nonprofit is Instilling an Environmentally-Conscious Mindset in the Next Generation of Leaders

This Teen-Led Nonprofit is Instilling an Environmentally-Conscious Mindset in the Next Generation of Leaders

Questions answered by Alie McDougall, Executive Director of the Tomorrow Project. All images provided by the Tomorrow Project.

Can you tell us about The Tomorrow Project’s beginnings? 

The Tomorrow Project began as an extension to a school assignment asking students to model a solution to a prevalent issue in their community. Four high schoolers from the Seattle area decided that the compost and recycling program they designed to address sustainability in their town was not the exact approach needed to create long-lasting change. And so, Surbhi, Maxwell, Neha, and Dana spent many late nights, brainstorming and planning until the Tomorrow Project was born in early 2020.

The Tomorrow Project’s Founding Members

What is the nonprofit all about?

Our mission is to make environmental education more accessible nationwide. We are achieving this mission by developing, designing, and distributing environmental curricula to parents and educators. Through our work, we hope to inspire sustainable practices in the rising generation of leaders!

Boston Chapter Beach Clean Up

How large is the organization now? 

The Tomorrow Project has slowly grown to comprise six national chapters as well as six national teams since March of 2020. Our chapters make up the majority of our 120 youth volunteers and work directly with educators to get our curricula into classrooms through lesson plans and workshops.

Our national teams include our Curriculum, Marketing, Outreach, Science and Research, Finance, and SJE (social justice and equity) teams. Volunteers on these teams are the backbone of our organization, creating content, researching education standards, and spreading our mission.

Team Photo of the Ventura Chapter

Can you tell us about the Tomorrow Project’s different projects? How did you adapt during the pandemic? 

The organization hosted just one in-person workshop before the coronavirus pandemic shifted our work to a virtual format. During those long months of lockdown and heavy restrictions, the Tomorrow Project began developing online curricula in the form of module packages, animated videos, crossword puzzles, and more.

We started hosting community workshops on Zoom that were open to any elementary school-aged student. We also spoke at multiple conferences including the E3 Washington Conference to connect educators with our content.

In the past few months, our chapters have been able to host several in-person workshops. Right now we are organizing a science fair for K-12 students in which we are looking for research on current solutions as well as innovative solutions to current environmental issues.

The Tomorrow Project’s First In-Person Workshop

What has the organization accomplished?

Through the difficulties of the pandemic, our team of driven high schoolers has continued to produce incredible content. We have organized and hosted over 25 personalized workshops and have reached about 525 students. With many traditional curriculum paths, students are not exposed to environmental education, and so with each school, teacher, and student that we work with, we are sowing the seeds of change.

Seattle Chapter Workshop

What do your responsibilities include? 

I joined the Tomorrow Project during the pandemic when my school was online and all my extracurriculars were canceled. I did not intend to continue working all through the rest of high school, but the incredible work we do as an organization made it too difficult to walk away.

Most of the work for me and the rest of the executive team involves meeting with each of the national directors and our chapter coordinator every other week. These meetings are the highlight of my days. Connecting with other like-minded and passionate youth is so motivating.

The executive team also connects chapters with educators, runs our monthly org-wide meetings, makes sure we are following all nonprofit guidelines, and so much more. For me, my school work always comes first but I carve out specific times, often 4-7 hours a week, for Tomorrow Project work. It never really feels like homework or a chore though!


What is your best advice to other students who want to launch an initiative like this?

My best advice for other students looking to launch their own initiative is to just start. The time to do it will never be perfect, but if you are passionate enough about the change you are trying to make, you will overcome the obstacles in your way!

Virtual Workshop on Plastic Pollution

What does the future hold for the Tomorrow Project?

We are currently trying out our first Tomorrow Project school club model as opposed to the regional chapter system we have used thus far. We are excited to see how this might increase our impact and grow our existing volunteer base. We are also so excited to develop more hands-on learning materials and host more in-person workshops in the future.

The Tomorrow Project’s First In-Person Workshop

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