Photo: Using the computer and laser fabricating machinery, this GreenFab girl has turned recycled packing material into a professional looking sign that carries an environmental message. To complete this assignment, students post their work in a prominent place in the community. Photo by Mark Gura

Often described with terms like "urban blight" and "toxic environment," the Hunts Point neighborhood in New York's Bronx does, in fact, have its share of determination and positive impact.

One such example is the GreenFab educational program at Bronx Guild High School, which is designed to foster 21st-century skills in at-risk youth and prepare them for work force readiness in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related fields, and primarily green collar jobs.

GreenFab evolved as a response to inner-city students' educational need for instruction that connects with them. The program draws on students' environmental and economic conditions and problems as raw material from which to create an instructional program -- and the staff doesn't see the school as a technical or a job-training institution.

"We're a college prep school that uses real-world experiences to improve academics," said Co-Director Jeff Palladino, adding that GreenFab impacts the kids because it exposes them to STEM subjects through real-world issues, he said. "They help our kids connect academic subject matter to real-life applications, experiment and create things, and solve problems that directly impact them, especially environmental justice issues."

Work Force Preparation

Some students are interested in creative technology, and some are interested in the environmental work, Palladino said, but the program provides numerous opportunities that can be customized to individual needs.

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