Sprout Up, the organization previously known as Environmental Education for the Next Generation, launched a campaign this past Sunday to promote the campus group in the second-annual Chase American Giving Awards.
Founded by UCSB fifth-year environmental studies major Ryland King, Sprout Up is a nonprofit organization that encourages college students to lead environmental-based education programs for children in public schools. EENG began in 2009 as a program working with 25 kids at Isla Vista Elementary School and has since won numerous contests and expanded to numerous classrooms in the area and other cities across California.
Of more than 7,000 entries to the Giving Awards, Sprout Up has made it to the top 25 finalists, with the chance to win $1,000,000 if they earn the top spot. The runner-up will be granted $500,000, a third organization will receive a $250,000 grant and two more will be given $125,000.
King said the new name represents the general idea behind the program — to instill ideals of sustainability at as young an age as possible.
“For the past three years, we were Environmental Education for the Next Generation, but it was too long of a name and too hard to remember. It was really restricting to our brand as a whole,” King said.
“Sprout Up embodies our mission … to promote sustainable lifestyles in our community from the youngest member up. It raises awareness of green movement from the youngest to the oldest members of our society.”
Sprout Up’s Santa Barbara Regional Director Helena Oskoui said the organization’s name stems from their goal of fostering hope within the young academic community.
“A seed is planted in every student’s classroom at the beginning of their eight-week lesson; every time we teach something new it relates back to the seed,” Oskoui said. “The whole goal of Sprout Up is that everyone is sprouting … all of us are growing through this program.”
The fate of the contest rests on the public — the winner will be determined by vote via Facebook — and Sprout Up will have computer kiosks set up in popular spots around campus, including the Rec Center, Davidson Library, the Arbor and various dinning commons. At 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, Community actor and celebrity host Joel McHale will honor the charities in a star- studded program on NBC Primetime.
According to King, Sprout Up encourages learning both within the classroom and outside of it. With an at-home program called Second Nature, the nonprofit strives to take school lessons and turn them into activities for parents and their children to pursue at home, King said.
“Our main focus is on six to eight-year-old children and college students, but we’re engaging the children’s parents in this focus through fun and recreational events based around the environment. We believe that children are the society’s biggest agents of change,” King said. “The adults right now are set in their ways. It’s very hard to change an adult’s habits and mind, but we believe that by educating the child, [children] can inspire their parents to seek more eco-friendly ways. We’re striving to promote environmentalism through the youth voice. When a child can speak passionately and knowledgably about a topic, people will listen.”
Director of Operations and UCSB alumna Tanya Heravian said Sprout Up aims to cross generational lines in order to educate community members on environmental issues.
“We’re bringing together so many generations from the community, from first to second-graders to college students to teachers and instructors from a regional staff basis. The instructors do a lot of partnerships, working and outreaching with the local community,” Heravian said. “I love it; it’s a complete community effort. It’s not just college students, not just elementary school kids and not just adults. It literally brings everybody together and gives them something to work toward and be a part of.”
Students can vote online at www.vote4theenvironment.com. Those interested in learning more about Sprout Up or becoming an educator for the organization can email Helena Oskoui at helenaoskoui@ sproutup.org.
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of November 28th, 2012’s print edition of the Nexus.