5th-grader Charles Orgbon III was troubled by his school’s littering problem. First, Charles began staying afterschool to pick up the litter in order to meet his school’s community service requirements; however, it did not take long before Charles’s inquisitive nature kicked in and he began learning more about environmental issues in his free time. Charles began realizing that our world is facing even greater issues than just littering. Overpopulation, climate change, animal extinction – 5th grader Charles Orgbon III wanted to change the world and no one was going to stop him.
He started a student club that would help lead campus beautification projects. After three years of founding and leading school-based projects, Charles was off to high school but wanted to show even more young people how they could create similar campaigns. Therein lays Charles’s impetus for creating an organization that would support young environmental changemakers across the globe: Greening Forward.
Greening Forward youth partners come from all over the world and find Greening Forward’s +120 curriculum resources, grant programs, skill-building tools, and mentorship opportunities helpful in their youth-driven campaigns to effect environmental change at the local and global level. Currently, Greening Forward directly serves more than 2,000 young leaders who plan rallies, events, and workshops that engaged 10,000 other community members. Greening Forward youth are advocating for bike-friendly communities in Denver, bringing organic foods to low-income communities through aquaponics in Makiki Valley, developing young leaders through capacity-building conferences in Atlanta, and protecting the Lowcountry’s vital estuaries in South Carolina.
Charles holds a number of national leadership positions and awards in the youth service and environmental fields. Charles serves a board member for Youth Service America and Earth Force; a teen board member for the Gwinnett Children’s Shelter; and, Environmental Professionals of Color – Atlanta’s cofounder.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has dedicated a piece of the Power of Children permanent exhibit to Charles’s efforts in order to inspire more young people to make a positive difference in the world. By 2014, Charles will be published in five books, and is currently one of 48 “People of Character” featured in school agenda books. A UNESCO project even took Charles’s profile to create a trading card game that will teach students about entrepreneurship and leadership. President Barack Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and former EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson have also commended Charles’s efforts.