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  • Brady Woodhouse

Sunrise Hub’s Green New Deal Seeks to Create a Brighter Future

Sunrise Hub members advocate for a Green New Deal for Schools / Credits: Anna Mayer (‘25)

The DCPS Sunrise Hub, formerly known as the SWW Sunrise Hub, has been leading the crusade for climate justice in the DC school system, and their efforts have only intensified with time and increased demand for the green schools that many students seek. 

Since the passage of the Green New Deal for Schools (GND4S) within the State Board of Education, the DCPS Sunrise Hub has begun to contend with the challenges that come with affecting real change. 

The DC State Board of Education has limited power regarding the changes that the GND4S outlines, save for the body’s influence. To enact the desired legislation, the hub has broadened its base and heightened its sights. 

Since its passage, students from all wards of DC for the Sunrise Hub have testified at three DC Council Hearings to advocate for legislative action that implements the five goals of the GND4S. According to the Hub’s website, these goals include safe and green infrastructure, free and healthy lunches, pathways to green jobs, climate disaster plans, and climate curricula. 

Sunrise Hub member Charlotte Mendelson (‘25) voiced the importance of and benefits posed by the five goals of the GND4S in that it  “prepares students to face the climate crisis with the facts…the idea that knowledge is power.” If accomplished, the goals will prepare the students for a future fight against climate change and are important to addressing student safety in the context of school infrastructure failures and climate disasters that schools can’t yet handle. 

Mendelson continued, “It became really evident that our schools aren’t equipped for climate disasters…when we had the wildfire smoke from Canada impacting our learning.”

The GND4S designates school buildings as relief zones for communities in the case of natural disasters, which are enhanced by climate change. Reb Spring, a student from Duke Ellington School of the Arts, in support of the GND4S in his testimony to the DC Council, testifies to the issues spurred by outdated infrastructure and power sources, “Instead of leaky gas pipes funneling toxic gas into our schools, schools should be run on clean and safe solar and wind energy.” Supporting student health through environmentally sustainable changes is a major part of the GND4S.

Recently, the Sunrise Hub run by Walls students Sunrise Hub has taken down the walls between the hub and other schools throughout the city, uniting students from various DC schools as advocates for the same policies.

 On April 25, the hub announced on its Instagram account it would no longer represent only School Without Walls students but all of DCPS. Sunrise Hub co-leader Anna Mayer (‘25) said about the name change, “All of our work was outside of school…and we had as much support from other schools as we did from Walls. It felt like a better representation of who we actually are.” This step has been integral in demonstrating to council members the expansive base of students who care about these problems while recognizing that climate justice isn’t solely a Walls problem, and shouldn’t be solely a Walls endeavor. 

In fact, the hub carries hope that their progress will inspire mobilization across the nation, a goal that their recently created website reaches for. Maia Riggs (‘25), who created the website, shares “From my end I can see the analytics and I have seen people looking at it… in Arizona… California, Colorado. It is really special to be part of something that is reaching so far.” The website is professional, comprehensive, and serves as a point of reference for any organization or individual who wants to get involved in the movement. 

The hub has already found success working with other groups, including EmpowerEd, an organization dedicated to creating more equitable education systems for DC students. On Earth Day, April 22, the Hub joined EmpowerEd and students from Mundo Verde for a day of lobbying council members in the John Wilson building. On this day, Sunrisers and other students got to continue conversations with Councilmembers about implementing a Green New Deal for Schools.

Members have consistently participated in budget oversight hearings as the Council worked to finalize the budget for Fiscal Year 2025. However, convincing council members of the importance of the GND4S has proven difficult amidst a broader DCPS budget crisis. The Sunrise Hub has taken leadership in helping students express the shortcomings of DCPS budget planning on all bases, including climate justice. In a February budget oversight hearing, Sunrise Hub co-leader Zoe Fisher (‘25) said, “We understand that the budget is already very tight, but the immense benefits that these demands will yield are undoubtedly worth every penny you can give them.” 

As noted by Riggs, broader education shortcomings and climate justice are intertwined. “Think about how impactful teachers are to students… My fourth grade teacher… is the reason that I care so much about the environment,” she said, adding that “We are nothing without our education.”  

Luckily, the Sunrise Hub has been able to persevere through these challenges and lobby each Councilmember about the goals of the GND4S campaign. Walls alum and Ward 4 Councilmember, Janeese Lewis George, has agreed to champion these efforts in a potential bill, which could then go through a working session and be voted on.

For more information on the movement and its goals, reference the movement’s Instagram, @sunrisedcps, or the hub’s website:

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