Naomi Stern, Green Facilities and Operations Analyst at San Mateo County Office of Education, has been chosen by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) as one of five individuals nationwide to receive a Leadership in Sustainability Fellowship for the coming year. The fellowship provides Naomi Stern and the county with access to a broad network of peer sustainability leaders and industry experts. Additionally, Fellows will benefit from free resources and tools that bring sustainability concepts to life in classrooms and throughout the community. The Center for Green Schools is a global leader in advancing healthy, sustainable schools and is committed to providing support to enhance student and staff health and prepare young people for 21st-century careers.

Naomi Stern is part of the San Mateo County Office of Education’s Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative (ELSI). Since joining ELSI in March 2020, she has supported schools in zero waste management, outdoor learning for COVID-19 recovery, and developing environmental literacy curriculum resources. Naomi’s position supports the San Mateo County Office of Education's core practice of sustainability by providing technical assistance for school campus facilities that are economically, socially, and environmentally responsible. 

The five fellowship recipients represent more than one million students in more than 1,400 schools from communities all across the country, including Corvallis School District (OR), Parkway School District (MO), New York Department of Education (NY), San Mateo County Office of Education (CA), Wahluke School District (WA).

The fellowship equips sustainability staff across the country with skills and resources to accelerate the progress in their communities regarding green school design and operations. Given the challenges schools face as a result of the global pandemic, the 2020-21 Fellows will focus on improving sustainability and health programming, from improved waste sorting systems to expanded outdoor education learning opportunities for their students. Fellows will receive access to leading green schools conferences and events, including the 2021 Green Schools Conference and Expo and the School Sustainability Leaders Summit. Fellows will also participate in targeted training on courageous leadership, effective storytelling, social equity, and sustainability. In order to broaden the impact of the fellowship, teachers, and staff from the fellows’ district will have an opportunity to take the Green Classroom Professional certificate course, which teaches skills and knowledge to create healthy, sustainable learning environments. They will also be given free access to Learning Lab, a USGBC program that offers hundreds of hands-on, standards-aligned curriculum and resources to help K-12 educators bring sustainability to life in the classroom.

"Moving a school system's culture toward sustainability and environmental action takes strong and smart leadership. This year's Fellows are committing their time and effort to continuous learning to become the best leaders they can be for the green school movement," said Anisa Heming, director of the Center for Green Schools. "We are proud to bring them together, and we are excited to celebrate the impact they will make in their schools."

Green schools are a critical part of rebuilding the economy and creating healthy, sustainable, resilient, and equitable communities. They can significantly lower district operating costs by improving efficiency, putting money back into classrooms while also reducing emissions and conserving resources. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that improving specific aspects of a student’s classroom environment like daylight, air quality, and noise levels lead to better memory, attention, concentration, task speed, and more. Green schools help strengthen communities and deliver social, environmental, and economic benefits that improve their quality of life.

The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council was founded with a vision to ensure green schools for all students in this generation. The Center believes that everyone, from the kindergartner entering the classroom to the Ph.D. student researching in a lab, should have the opportunity to attend schools that sustain the world they live in, enhance their health and well-being, and prepare them for 21st-century careers. Working with school decision-makers, community volunteers, and thought leaders in the public and private sectors, the Center drives progress at the intersection of sustainability, education, public health, and the built environment.

To learn more about the fellowship program and sustainability in schools, please visit the Center for Green Schools' website.