The following is a guest post by Lexy Close who lives in East Tennessee, where she has been a program leader for Summer of Solutions since 2011.  Her program, Build It Up East TN, focuses on food justice and sustainability.

Summer-of-SolutionsIn the face of a falling economy, an energy crisis, fragmented and inequitable communities, and the growing threat of global warming, youth are coming together to create solutions that address all of these challenges together.

These are Solutionaries – youth leaders who work as innovative organizers across issue lines to build the green economy as an engine for local opportunity, climate and energy solutions, and social justice.

Every summer, youth gather in communities across the nation for the Summer of Solutions – a training ground for its participants and a launching pad for the Solutionary vision.  With the support of local partnerships and a national network of fellow solutionaries, participants create self-sustaining projects that have a direct impact on their communities and that serve as models for others to build on.

Running a program gives you the opportunity to create and support green economy projects that build power for people who currently don’t have as much access AND to empower young people from your community and beyond with the skills and strategies they need to do the same thing wherever they go next.

Apply now to run a Summer of Solutions program in your community in 2014!

In 2013, Summer of Solutions programs:

  • Hosted two public forums and submitted an energy efficiency proposal to City Council (Iowa City, IA)

  • Cleaned up a community ravaged by illegal dumping and neglect (Detroit, MI)

  • Grew 350 lbs of organic produce to supply their backyard CSA program (Chicago, IL)

  • Ran a free summer camp for 30 children in the Fruitvale community teaching lessons on sustainability, personal empowerment, and community action (Oakland, CA)

  • Hosted educational workshops teaching community members how to grow organic food, experiment with vertical gardening, make lotions and balms, raise chickens, save seeds, grow shiitake mushrooms, lacto-ferment pickles and krauts, and raise bees for honey (Johnson City, TN)

  • Constructed community gardens at a food bank, veterans’ hospital, and seven other locations (Southern WV)

  • Secured an agreement from Centerpoint Energy to assist Minneapolis in reaching 30% emissions reductions by 2030 and addressing methane leakage in natural gas and secured City Council support for a year-long process to secure clean, affordable, reliable, and local energy (Twin Cities, MN)

  • Managed 7 community gardens, including three gardens at local schools with which they are developing year-round school gardening curricula (Hartford, CT)

Read more about these and other stories at our program pages.

Interested in doing work beyond the summer?

Local Initiatives are year-round sites of solutionary work where emerging leaders focus on designing, testing, and replicating innovative solutions in the green economy. They are, in essence, launching pads for new community project models that could be replicated elsewhere.

Unlike Grand Aspirations’ other programs, Local Initiatives focus less on training and more on project development and implementation. We envision them as the testing grounds for entrepreneurial projects that can out-compete unsustainable economic models while addressing social injustice and building community.

We want to invite YOU to be one of those young people building those solutions. Apply here to start a program in your community. The deadline for summer programs is November 8th. For more details on the guidelines for running a program, including January Training Gatherings and other forms of support, click here.

If you have any questions about what being a program leader entails, please contact Alexis Close at or 423-946-1673.Please share this opportunity with young people and leaders in your community and beyond!