Environmental Education & Job Training Program


An empowering program that prepares youth and adults for environmental careers and to improve conditions in their communities.


Used in prisons, jails, juvenile facilities, reentry programs, job training programs, schools, youth programs, and other settings. Over 25,000 youth and adults have graduated from our course. Our Apprenticeship program is the first federally recognized Department of Labor “Environmental Educator” Apprenticeship program in the United States.

Ten Year ReportImpact Report

Our Vision

Our vision is a society that prioritizes social and racial justice, good jobs, thriving communities, and a healthy environment.

Our Mission

Our mission is to prepare youth and adults from communities with high rates of poverty and unemployment for environmental careers and post-secondary education and to become activists and leaders who can improve environmental and social conditions in their communities and in society more broadly. We do this by providing education and workforce programs with an empowering environmental education and job training program called Roots of Success.

How It Works

Roots of Success is a multimedia, activity-based curriculum that is facilitated by an instructor and taught in a classroom setting, or taken online. The curriculum is composed of ten modules and can be taught as a stand-alone course or integrated into an existing program.

Programs use Roots of Success because our teaching approach and materials immediately engage individuals who have struggled in school and have barriers to employment and are directly relevant to people who come from low-income communities. Our curriculum strengthens academic and professional skills, increases environmental literacy, focuses on 125 careers that can provide individuals and their families with economic security, and inspires individuals to become activists and leaders who can improve conditions in their communities and in society more broadly.

The Curriculum

Roots of Success is a 10 module, multimedia, activity-based curriculum that can be facilitated by an instructor and taught in a classroom setting or offered as a self-paced course that students can take independently. The curriculum can be taught as a stand-alone course or integrated into an existing course or program. After teaching the first module, programs can offer as many or few modules as they choose. There are customized versions for different populations: in-school and out-of-school youth, adults, incarcerated populations, and Spanish-speaking populations.

The Training

Roots of Success is taught by instructors who are trained and certified to teach the course. Program staff in any education or training setting and from all skill levels can be trained to be instructors. New instructors participate in a one-day Train-the-Instructors training online or in-person. Our team is flexible to meet each program and instructor’s scheduling needs. Instructors leave the training with all of the teaching materials and multimedia content needed to teach the course, receive ongoing technical assistance, and join a national Community-of-Practice composed of certified instructors.

The Guidebook

The curriculum is accompanied by a Green Jobs & Career Pathways Guidebook that uses Bureau of Labor (BLS) statistics and employment data to describe 125+ jobs and careers in the green economy. It includes detailed information on job descriptions, basic qualifications, salary ranges, benefits, career ladders, and growth figures. The Guidebook is explicitly designed for youth and adults who have not been served well by schools, and includes information on jobs and careers that do not require a college degree but offer employees living wages and occupational mobility over time.

Teaching Method

Inspired by the popular education model, our teaching method engages students, makes learning relevant, builds on previous knowledge and experiences, and connects what students are learning in the classroom to real-world issues. The curriculum uses intensive student engagement, integrated multimedia, and group activities to stimulate students’ intellectual curiosity and ignite their interest in the subject matter because the conversation speaks directly to the students experiences and is relevant to their everyday lives and concerns.
The curriculum design and delivery system actively engage students in the learning process. The curriculum works well for students with different learning styles (kinesthetic, visual, audial) and from diverse backgrounds.

Curriculum Walk Through

Inside the Classroom

The strength and impact of Roots of Success comes from how it delivers information – it is not simply given to students as if they are open vessels ready to bank information, but as people who learn better when they engage with the material, see and hear content that is relevant to their lives and sparks conversation and are encouraged to learn from one another.

Rebecca Lurie

Training Center Director, Consortium for Worker Education, NYC

Academic Objectives

Each module is structured to address 6 key areas:


Environmental Literacy

Focus on pressing environmental issues, problems and solutions, environmental justice, innovative and entrepreneurial responses to environmental challenges, and key terms and vocabulary needed to work in environmental fields.

Academic Skills

Emphasis on reading, writing, communication, scientific inquiry, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, problem-solving, computer literacy skills, test taking, academic confidence.

Work Readiness and Career Pathways

Prepares students for 125+ environmental jobs and career pathways, focuses on professional skills, job searches, resume and cover letter writing,mock interviews, preparation for successful interviews with employers.

Leadership Development

Focuses on developing skills to identify problems, participate in discussions about environmental issues, and take action to achieve solutions.

Financially Literacy

Focuses on skills and knowledge individuals need to make informed and effective short and long-term financial decisions.

Social Entrepreneurship

Focuses on developing a plan for a small green business.


Roots of Success is adaptable and versatile. It can be taught over the course of several weeks or months. It can be used as a stand-alone curriculum or it can be integrated into an academic or training program. Each module can be completed in five hours total time. Teaching all 10 modules takes approximately 50 hours. To offer Roots of Success, programs have one or more staff or participants in their program trained to teach the curriculum. Before, during and after the training, our staff work directly with program directors and instructors to develop an implementation plan that fits their program’s needs.

Key Features

  • Used in education, workforce, correctional facility, and reentry settings
  • Materials are flexible, adaptable, affordable, easy to use
  • Teaching method and materials immediately engage students
  • Prepares students to understand and address society’s most pressing environmental and environmental justice problems
  • Connects education to employment
  • Prepares students for over 125+ environmental jobs and career pathways
  • Graduates receive an industry relevant certification
  • Students can receive up to 6 units of college credit in some settings
The Fundamentals of Environmental Literacy Module (Introduction) helps students think about the interconnectedness between natural systems, biological systems and social systems and the connection between human activity and the environment. The focus is on: the economy, natural and built environments, extraction and use of natural resources, global warming, climate change, bioaccumulation, synergistic effects, how decision makers evaluate environmental issues, cost-benefit analysis, how environmental decisions effect communities differently, climate justice, and how people advocate to improve environmental conditions in their community. Students go through a series of activities that allow them to analyze environmental issues, problems, and solutions from the multi-disciplinary perspectives of environmental science, math, technology, public health, social science, land use planning, policy analysis, environmental justice, and civics. The job readiness exercise focuses on understanding career pathways and ladders.
The Water Module introduces students to basic concepts and issues relevant to water extraction, management and use, the characteristics of water, how water is used in different settings, the importance of water for humans and other species, the water cycle, water use in agriculture, modern water management approaches, the inequitable distribution of fresh water, ground water extraction, wastewater management, and water contamination. Activities allow students to analyze different approaches to conserve water and reduce contamination, including: water saving technologies, grey water and rainwater catchment systems, native and edible landscaping, ecological wastewater treatment systems, programs and incentives offered by local governments or utilities. The job readiness exercise enables students to identify their professional strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan for improving professional weaknesses. In addition, students identify career pathways and entrepreneurial opportunities in the water sector.
The Waste Module introduces students to a range of issues related to waste management and resource recovery. Students learn about the waste stream and how it has changed over time, bury and burn strategies, problems that stem from the way institutions and individuals dispose of products and materials at the end of their identified lifecycles, alternative waste management approaches, resource recovery, appropriate technologies, and the 4 Rs. A job readiness exercise focuses on job searching skills and strategies, including identifying and responding to job listings. In addition, students identify career pathways and entrepreneurial opportunities in the waste recovery sector.
The Transportation Module helps students understand land use planning, the development of transportation systems and infrastructure, diverse transportation modes and transit systems. The module focuses on renewable and nonrenewable resources, the role of fossil fuels in modern transportation systems and vehicles, problems stemming from urban sprawl, greenhouse gas emissions, and air contamination, policies that promote transit-oriented development, alternative fuels, and transportation justice. A job readiness exercise focuses on resume writing. In addition, students identify career pathways and entrepreneurial opportunities in the sustainable transportation sector.
The Energy Module helps students understand diverse energy sources, the principles of electricity, the role of energy in the world and in our lives, and the economic, political, environmental, and social factors that influence energy decisions. Students are introduced to the characteristics of energy and electricity, basic concepts and issues relevant to energy systems, the role of fossil fuels and nuclear energy in modern electricity systems, greenhouse gasses and their impacts, and problems associated with the burning of fossil fuels. The module focuses approaches and technologies that help people reduce energy use, renewable energy sources and policies that promote clean energy and climate justice. The job readiness exercise helps students write a cover letter to an employer. In addition, students identify career pathways and entrepreneurial opportunities in the clean energy sector.
The Building Module introduces students to basic land use planning, building, and green building concepts. The focus is on built environments, building design and construction, building materials, building systems, embodied energy, indoor air quality, energy and water consumption in buildings, environmental and public health impacts of conventional building practices, green building principles and practices, improving building efficiency, and resource conservation in the construction, operation, and deconstruction of buildings. The job readiness exercise focuses on preparing for a job interview and mock interviews. In addition, students identify career pathways and entrepreneurial opportunities in the building sector. The module supports students studying for the BPI (Building Performance Institute) exam.
The Health, Food & Agriculture Module focuses on human health, food systems, and agricultural production. Students learn about health, nutrition, local and global food systems, agricultural practices, industrial agriculture, global food systems, factory farming, GMO crops, processed and fast food, food deserts, how to increase health and food justice, local food systems, urban agriculture, backyard and community gardening, and health education. A final activity has students envision their local food system and think about how new businesses and initiatives could improve health and food access in their communities. The job readiness exercise has identify career pathways and entrepreneurial opportunities in the sustainable food, agriculture, and public health sectors and think about career pathways they may like to pursue.
The Community Organizing & Leadership Module introduces students to civic engagement, advocacy, community organizing, and leadership approaches, strategies, and skill sets. The module helps students understand the roles and responsibilities of an effective advocate and organizer. Students identify the root causes of problems, build a community-based organization, craft a mission statement, identify organizational goals and values, strategize campaigns, and simulate door-to-door campaigns. The job exercise has students think about career pathways in advocacy and civic engagement.
The Financial Literacy & Social Entrepreneurship Module focuses on personal financial literacy and on basic business practices, skills sets, and green business principles. Students think about how they can address problems in their communities through entrepreneurial initiatives. In the first part of the module, students’ focus on their personal finances and learn how to analyze income and expenses, create a budget, set financial goals, deal with debt and predatory lenders, establish savings, and effectively manage their finances. In the second part of the module, students develop green business ideas and business plans, and focus on how to operate a small green business, effective communication skills, business models, basic accounting, target markets, hiring staff, financial reporting, and recruiting advisors.
The Application & Practice Module (Conclusion) provides students with an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in the course to real world situations. In the final exercise students envision and design a sustainable, healthy, and just community block.

Where We Are

There are certified Roots of Success instructors in 40 U.S. states and three countries.
List of Programs



More prepared for job interviews


Better understanding of environmental problems and solutions


Improved basic academic skills


More interested in community engagement


Increased professional vocabulary


Would recommend class to others


More knowledgeable on green careers


Will share what they learn with others


Roots of Success is particularly well suited for young people who have not been well served by the schools. It is a tool that can help address career and college readiness for young people with low levels of literacy. The curriculum works because it is engaging, adaptable, easy to teach, works well for students with different learning styles, promotes collaboration, problem solving and student leadership.
Pedro Noguera

Distinguished Professor of Education, UCLA

Roots of Success is helping us educate offenders about the importance of conserving resources in our facility. In the last year, we’ve reduced our trash bill from $95,000 to $5,000. It is also helping us to prepare offenders for reintegration and employment.

Chief of Industries

Ohio Penal Industries, Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction

Roots of Success is the missing ingredient in the green collar jobs landscape: an accessible curriculum that helps people break the cycle of poverty by providing needed job and academic skills while empowering them to improve environmental and public health conditions in their communities.

We are standing on the verge of a new economy and we need to think about who this economy will include, and who it will exclude. The green economy is strong enough to lift people out of poverty, but only if the people who need jobs the most receive training and support for good green jobs.

Van Jones

Founder, Green For All, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and Rebuild the Dream

Earning college credit helps students move towards college. For students who do not see themselves in college, Roots offers a multitude of growing career pathways that do not require a college degree.
Andra Kimball

Science Teacher, Mission High School, San Francisco, CA

ROS participates in Taproot Pro Bono Marathon

Last week Roots of Success had the fortune of participating in the Taproot Foundation's Pro Bono Marathon along with other Bay Area nonprofits Cat Town, Build Healthy Places Network, and Pacifica Spindrift Players. In the one day event, nonprofits tackled a challenge...

Berkeley Youth Alternatives (BYA)’s Green Pathways Program

The following is from the BYA Summer 2021 Newsletter Green Pathways Program Internship for Environmental Careers Young people ages 14 to 24 enrolled in BYA’s new Green Pathways Program are preparing for environmental jobs in energy, urban agriculture, water...

Two New Roots of Success Instructors Trained at Ecotrust and Oakland Unified School District

This June, we had the pleasure of training and welcoming two more instructors into the Roots of Success community. One is Laura Ford, Director of Special Projects at Ecotrust, which is our longtime partner in Portland, Oregon. The other is Sarah Pipping, who works...

Honoring Demetrius Fleming Davis

It is with very heavy hearts that we honor the life of Roots of Success student Demetrius Fleming Davis, who died after being struck by a stray bullet in Oakland just a few days before his 19th birthday. Demetrius was enrolled in the Roots of Success course as part of...

Partner Spotlight: Growing Home

On April 1st, we had the great pleasure of training three new instructors from Growing Home. Growing Home is Chicago’s leading expert in farm-based training for people with employment barriers. The program, based in the Englewood community, has been around since 2002...

Partner Spotlight: Berkeley Youth Alternatives

Berkeley Youth Alternatives, known by locals as BYA,  is one of the most important centers serving children and youth from low-income families in Berkeley, California. For over 40 years, BYA has provided a place for youth through an after school center, career...

Contact Us

Interested in scheduling a training, reviewing a sample the curriculum, or simply learning more about how Roots of Success could make an impact on your classroom, reach out to us via email below.