new roots students clearing the cayuga wetlands during restoration project

The State Education Department has honored New Roots Charter School as a New York State Green Ribbon School, one of only three state nominees for the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) program distinction. 

The Green Ribbon award recognizes schools that reduce environmental impact and costs; improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education. 

“The Green Ribbon Program sets the gold standard,” said New Roots Founder and Principal, Tina Nilsen-Hodges. “We are so honored to be recognized among schools committed to the highest ideals for these essential elements of a 21st century education.”

Authorized as a tuition-free public school by the State University of New York in 2008, New Roots attracts a regionally diverse population of students in grades 9-12, bringing together young people from rural, urban, and suburban backgrounds in a learning environment that integrates core environmental, sustainability, green technology, and civics studies into a four-year college preparatory curriculum emphasizing STEM through community-based, interdisciplinary projects.

“To be honored here in New York and nominated for this prestigious national award is truly an outstanding achievement and I congratulate staff, students, and school board for their commitment to creating sustainable and healthy school communities,” New York Education Commissioner Betty Rosa said. “It’s inspiring these students are committed to creating a cleaner, greener environment and they are positioned to be our future environmental and clean energy leaders.”

The Green Ribbon Schools recognition award is given to schools that have demonstrated high achievement in all three ED-GRS Pillars:

  1. Reduce environmental impact and costs;
  2. Improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and
  3. Provide effective environmental and sustainability education.

New Roots students engage in interdisciplinary studies of core academic subjects within a framework of sustainability and environmental stewardship,  focusing on college, career, and life readiness. The school’s student-initiated Cayuga Wetlands Restoration Project, inspired by the ecological wisdom of the Cayuga Nation, integrates scientific knowledge with civic engagement.  The NY Department of Environmental Conservation awarded New Roots a four-year grant of $38,000 to establish the summer Youth Ecological Restoration Corps to further the project, designed to study how native wetland species contribute to the health of the lake ecosystem. 

“The Board and I commend the students, educators and staff in these schools for their commitment to improving their communities and working to build a cleaner, safer environment for all,” Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said. “Recent natural disasters have shown that environmental responsibility is imperative for our planet and our next generation. These schools are not only setting an example for their students, they are setting an example for their community and schools across the state.”

The ED-GRS program recognizes schools where staff, students, officials, and communities have worked together to produce energy efficient, sustainable and healthy school environments and to ensure the environmental literacy of graduates. The recognition award is part of a larger USDE effort to identify and disseminate knowledge about practices proven to result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates, and workforce preparedness, as well as a government-wide goal to increase energy independence and economic security.

Honorees of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools competition will be announced in a ceremony held in Washington DC this fall.

For more information on the program, please visit the NYS Green Ribbon Schools website

# # # #

For more information, contact Michael Mazza, director of community engagement at New Roots Charter School, at