ITHACA, N.Y.—New Roots Charter School has been named a New York State Green Ribbon School, one of just three New York schools nominated by the New York State Education Department for the national distinction.

According to a release from the school, the Green Ribbon Award, awarded through the U.S. Department of Education, “recognizes schools that reduce environmental impact and costs; improve the health and wellness of schools, students and staff; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.”

Schools must meet three criteria of high achievement in each of the aforementioned three categories. New Roots, founded in 2008, is a tuition-free high school that incorporates sustainable, green practices and lessons into its regular curriculum. 

“The Green Ribbon Program sets the gold standard,” said New Roots Founder and Principal Tina Nilsen-Hodges. “We are so honored to be recognized among schools committed to the highest ideals for these essential elements of a 21st century education.”

“To be honored here in New York and nominated for this prestigious national award is truly an outstanding achievement and I congratulate staff, students, and school board for their commitment to creating sustainable and healthy school communities,” New York Education Commissioner Betty Rosa said. “It’s inspiring these students are committed to creating a cleaner, greener environment and they are positioned to be our future environmental and clean energy leaders.”

According to the school, some of the larger projects that could have helped them be nominated by the state include the Cayuga Wetlands Restoration Project, taking inspiration from the Cayuga Nation, which aims to study how “native wetland species contribute to the health of the lake ecosystem.” The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation gave the school a four year grant amounting to $38K to keep the research going and establish a formal youth corps in connection to the project.

“The Board and I commend the students, educators and staff in these schools for their commitment to improving their communities and working to build a cleaner, safer environment for all,” Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said. “Recent natural disasters have shown that environmental responsibility is imperative for our planet and our next generation. These schools are not only setting an example for their students, they are setting an example for their community and schools across the state.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at