About Us

To fulfill the social and environmental justice mission of Roots of Success, we take a unique approach to building classroom tools and creating deep, meaningful relationships with programs.

Our mission is to connect youth and adults from communities with high rates of poverty and unemployment to environmental careers and post-secondary education. We do this by producing an empowering environmental literacy and job readiness curriculum, called Roots of Success, that helps education and workforce programs prepare youth and adults with barriers to employment access for environmental jobs and career pathways in multiple sectors of the economy.

We seek to address two of the most pressing issues of our time – poverty and ecological destruction. The issues may appear different, but there is a single solution: provide people with pathways out of poverty by preparing them for living-wage jobs that improve environmental quality.

Roots of Success was created by Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes, Professor of Urban Studies & Planning at San Francisco State University and an internationally recognized expert on the green economy and green workforce training. The curriculum is informed by Raquel’s decades of experience working with and teaching underserved populations and, in-depth research with employers in 21 sectors of the green economy.

Roots of Success responds to the need to create living wage jobs and career pathways for residents in communities with high rates of poverty and unemployment and to promote sustainable development. We do this by strengthening core academic skills, increasing people’s understanding of environmental problems and solutions, preparing them for jobs and career pathways in multiple sectors of the economy and, to improve conditions in their communities. Our focus is on student success, making learning relevant, building on prior experiences, and connecting education to employment.

We focus on the green economy because it is one of the fastest growing economic sectors, provides workers in entry-level jobs with higher wages, better benefits, and greater occupational mobility than entry-level jobs in other sectors, and because the people we serve come from communities heavily impacted by environmental problems.

Roots of Success is used by high schools, youth programs, community colleges, job training programs, re-entry programs, libraries, prisons, jails, juvenile facilities, community-based organizations, and government agencies.

Instructors are trained to use teaching methods and materials that integrate classroom discussions with videos, visuals, group activities, oral presentations, and professional development exercises to keep participants engaged and increase their understanding of environmental problems, solutions, and green jobs while strengthening basic academic and professional skills.

About Roots of Success

Roots of Success is an empowering educational program that prepares youth and adults who come from communities heavily impacted by poverty, unemployment, and environmental injustice for environmental careers and to improve conditions in their communities.

Roots of Success is the only environmental literacy and job readiness program created specifically for youth and adults who have been failed by the education system and have barriers that make it difficult for them to access stable, family-supporting jobs and restrict their opportunities.

The program is used in high schools, youth programs, job training programs, prisons, jails, juvenile facilities, reentry programs, community-based organizations, and government agencies.

Programs use Roots of Success because the teaching approach and materials engages youth and adults that have struggled in school, strengthens their academic and professional skills, increases their environmental literacy, prepares them for over 150 careers that can provide them and their families with economic security, and inspires them to become activists and leaders who can improve conditions in their communities and in society more broadly.

Roots of Success is a multimedia, activity based curriculum that is facilitated by an instructor and taught in a classroom setting. The curriculum can be taught as a stand-alone course or integrated into an existing program. After teaching the Fundamentals module programs can teach as many or few modules as they choose. There are customized versions for different populations: youth, adults, incarcerated youth and adults, Spanish-speaking populations, social entrepreneurs, people living in South Africa and the U.K.

The curriculum is composed of 10 modules

1. Fundamentals of Environmental Lit.             6. Building
2. Water                                                                  7. Health, Food & Agriculture
3. Waste                                                                  8. Community Organizing & Leadership
4. Transportation                                                  9. Financial Literacy & Social Entrepreneurship
5. Energy                                                                10. Application & Practice

To offer Roots of Success

Programs schedule a Train-the-Instructor training for the individuals who will teach the curriculum in their program. Instructors leave the training with all of the teaching materials and multimedia content needed to teach the course and receive ongoing technical assistance. A few weeks before the class begins, programs order Student Workbooks for each participant in the class. Students who complete the course receive a Certificate that is valued by employers and educational institutions. In some settings, students receive college credit for taking the course.

Our Values


We nurture environmental leaders from the communities that most need them, both as graduates from our curriculum and as staff members within our organization.


We promote social equity within our organization through equal pay, transparency, and consensus-based decision making.


We employ green business practices in all aspects of our operation.


We recognize that socioeconomic inequality and environmental degradation are inextricably linked and must be addressed simultaneously.


We believe that people who come from communities most impacted by environmental problems and injustices must be at the forefront of providing solutions to these problems

Our Approach

Engage students and focus on their success

Allow students to build on their existing knowledge and experience

Ensure that content is relevant and culturally competent

Strengthen academic skills

Teach to different learning styles and levels of literacy

Train instructors and provide them with ongoing support

Customize versions for different populations

Develop leadership skills

Design curriculum materials that are adaptable and easy to use

Connect education to employment

Support sustainability initiatives and programs

Prepare people for dignified, living wage jobs


Roots of Success was created in 2008 by Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes, Professor of Urban Studies & Planning at San Francisco State University, and an internationally recognized expert on the green economy and green workforce training who has decades of experience working with at-risk populations. The curriculum was developed based on in-depth research with employers in 21 sectors of the green/clean-energy economy, and in response to the growing momentum to promote sustainable development and provide good jobs for individuals with significant barriers to employment – fighting pollution and poverty simultaneously.

Promotes 21st Century Skills

Ways of thinking:

  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Lifelong learning
  • Decision-making
  • Vocabulary
  • Natural science
  • Environmental literacy
  • Sustainability
  • Environmental Equity

Skills for working:

  • Information literacy
  • Data analysis
  • Interpreting tables, charts, and graphs
  • Mapping
  • Public speaking
  • Computer skills
  • Test taking

Ways of working:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Math
  • Research
  • Teamwork
  • Engagement
  • Retention

Skills for living:

  • Citizenship
  • Career development
  • Personal, social, and environmental responsibility
  • Advocacy
  • Civic engagement
  • Leadership
  • Financial literacy
  • Social entrepreneurship