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Natural Pod’s CEO Bridgitte Alomes is one of four speakers presenting together as a panel at SXSW EDU in March, so we thought it would be great to go one step further than introduce each of them, and give you a real insight into why they are such education heros and why they’ll be such powerful people to come and see at SXSW EDU in Austin, Texas, March 9-12th.

This week let’s get to know Alison Diaz from Environmental Charter Schools. This is part of a bigger interview between Alison Diaz and Lady Clever.

Diaz, who was initially educated as a lawyer, was inspired to not only change her profession and become an educator, but to build better schools, especially for underserved communities in Southern California. Thus, she founded Environmental Charters Schools, and their successes speak for themselves; in 2016, 97% of ECS high school students were accepted into 4-year colleges.

The two middle schools and one high school Diaz founded are focused schools that feature STEM/STEAM programming, environmental education curriculum, and even have live animals on campus! Diaz spoke with Lady Clever about her vision for her dream charter school, the impact that a school environment can have on its students, and why she wanted ECS to be sustainable for kids and their communities.

What led to your decision to pursue education as a career? What inspired you to found a charter school?

“When I was little you would often find me saying, “Life isn’t fair.” Whenever I found something unfair, I would have to do something about it. I went to law school to learn how to do just that but quickly realized I wasn’t solving inequalities, so I left law and started teaching. I soon realized that through education I could make a difference – I could chip away at the problems most critical to our generation.

All kids need a high-quality education. Kids in our most underserved communities, however, do not have high quality choices. So in 2000, we opened Environmental Charter Schools to address these challenges. Today, 98 percent of our students graduate prepared to enter a college or university and 97 percent are admitted.”

Why is it important to have the environment and sustainability feature so strongly in your schools?

“When students care about the issues they are studying and are moved to take action to make a measurable difference in their local community, they can see clearly that their voices are powerful. They realize they can do something about the problems and injustices they may be experiencing and seeing around them. They also start to realize that education matters, and that the academic skills they are learning can be immediately applied. Ultimately, they realize that they matter.”

Have the schools’ open environments and message centered on giving back impacted the students socially? Are there less bullying and self-esteem issues that you’ve noticed, compared to your former school?

Yes. Our organizational values are evident as soon as you walk onto any of our campuses. ECS is a small learning community and our campus culture is reflected in our values – from how we treat and respect one another to our approach to learning.”

  • We are Family – We care. We communicate. We collaborate. We share. We are thought and change partners.
  • We are Curious – We question. We explore. We innovate. We imagine. We are “solutionaries”.
  • We are Sustainable – We grow. We adapt. We re-think. We thrive. We engineer progress.
  • We are Leaders– We choose. We think critically. We advocate. We empower. We are our own superheroes.
  • We are Accomplished – We learn. We focus. We excel. We shine. We get our hands dirty.

Read The Full Interview Here – Thank you to Alison Diaz, Abby Stern (interview author) and Lady Clever.

Natural Pod is very honoured and excited to be presenting with Alison at SXSW EDU in Austin, Texas in March, as a member of the panel discussing ‘Sustainability & Social Justice in K-12 Schools’.

From left to right: Alison Diaz | Jennifer Seydel, Green Schools National Network | Bridgitte Alomes