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Investing in a Diverse Future for the Green Economy

Authored by Mira Mason-Reader, Special Projects Assistant  

Dolly Parton once said, “if you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.” As a country, we’re starting to realize that the road we’ve been walking is unsustainable in more ways than one. Many jobs that used to provide living-wage careers have dried up or disappeared altogether. Entire communities have been left behind when oil refineries or manufacturing plants close. The jobs that have managed to stick around often offer low pay with zero to little benefits, unreliable hours, and little opportunity for upward mobility.  

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has estimated that 24 million jobs worldwide could be created by the green economy by 2030. From solar panel installation to green building design to green banks, the green economy will provide millions of new living-wage jobs for our country. But, does it matter how many jobs are out there if our communities aren’t prepared or trained to do them? And how do we ensure that folks who have been disproportionately affected by climate change are at the forefront of these new solutions? 

In partnership with Google Nest, we decided to tackle those questions by launching the Green For All Clean Energy Scholarship. With 50 scholarships of $3,500, we sought out Black and Brown folks across the country looking to pursue their green dreams in the burgeoning green energy sector. 

When activist and advocate Shelton McElroy applied for the Green For All Clean Energy Scholarship, he shared his ambitious plans to create opportunities for people in his community. “I don’t want a job in the green energy sector,” he revealed, “I want to be an entrepreneur … in the green energy sector. I want to take people with lived experience of incarceration, people impacted by pollution… communities that are redlined… and I want to employ those people to install solar panels in communities of color.”

Shelton McElroy has spent decades working to reform the criminal legal system.  For Shelton, this work is deeply personal as he is a formerly incarcerated person who was a ward of the state in foster care for over 15 years. Pursuing this degree and scholarship is part of his lifelong commitment to advancing equity. “Every time I get the opportunity to move the needle on justice for people I raise my hand.”

To make this dream a reality, Shelton is using his scholarship funds to apply for his Doctorate of Education at the University of Washington, Tacoma, in a program led by and designed for formerly incarcerated people. 

Green For All has always fought for a future that takes on poverty and pollution at the same time. We know Black and Brown communities are the people hurt first and worst by pollution and climate change, and we work hard every day to address those disparities in everything that we do. Our Clean Energy Scholarship provides the short-term funds needed to pursue long-term dreams like Shelton’s, but our work doesn’t stop there. As we reimagine how we want our country’s future to look, Green For All will continue to lead the way in blazing a new green path forward for all Americans.

Meet the second cohort of recipients

Click the image below to watch the video! 

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