Our youth-driven, youth-engineered organization is powered, of course, by high school and college students from across the United States. Our mentors at Hometown Security Laboratories, a non-profit incubator, assist our organization with our fiscal and monetary policies.

Cindy Wang

Outreach Manager
Environmental Science
Macaulay Honors College at CCNY
Class of 2019
(855) ECO-TEEN ext. 460 »

Jabari Allen

Outreach Manager
Psychology and Biology
Truman State University Graduate
Class of 2014
(855) ECO-TEEN ext. 420 »


Ryan Szvetecz

Finance Director
Finance and Environmental Economics and Management
University of Georgia
Class of 2019

Marissa Vessels

Program Director
UC Berkeley, Graduate
Political Science & Public Policy »

Sam Good

Social Media Strategist
Environmental Systems Engineering and Economics
Stanford University
Class of 2020
Pleasant View, Utah »

Sean Bradley

Film Director
Film and Media Studies
University of Georgia
Class of 2016

Deanna Upchurch

Vice President of Digital Content
Watertown High School
Class of 2016
(855) ECO-TEEN ext. 450 »

In the 5th grade, Charles Orgbon III was troubled by noticing litter around his school’s campus. He started a student club that would help lead campus beautification projects. After three years of founding and leading such 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.  Under Charles’s leadership, Greening Forward has grown into the largest youth-engineered environmental organization (measured by total operating budget). Charles holds a number of national leadership positions and awards in the youth service field. Charles’s efforts have been commended by President Barack Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and former EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. Today, he is a Presidential Leadership Scholar studying environmental economics and management at the University of Georgia. Learn more about how you can book Charles for public speaking at your next conference, workshop, or event.

Marissa Vessels is a graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in Political Science and Public Policy and currently works as a full-stack marketer at MerusCase. Marissa comes from a background rich in the nonprofit sector and is excited to bring her unique experience to the table as a member of the Greening Forward team. In her free time, she enjoys camping, exploring all of the fabulous brunch spots in San Francisco, and her endless search for the perfect cup of coffee.

Sara Webber went to public high school for most of her life, but decided that wasn’t her thing. She now pursues her education at a self-directed learning center in Princeton, NJ and will be attending Hampshire College in the fall of 2016, where she hopes to combine her interests for environmental science, sustainable development, and international relations. In addition to environmental issues, Sara is also passionate about alternative education, sexuality and gender studies, Deaf culture, and travel. When she isn’t pursing her educational goals, you can find her hanging out with friends, searching for the best doughnuts in the greater NYC area, or perfecting her homemade hot chocolate recipe.

Deanna Upchurch grew up surrounded by natural beauty in a small town outside of Nashville, Tennessee. She loves traveling, hiking, and spending time with her family. Deanna recently graduated from Watertown High School and plans to take a gap year to study Arabic while living in Rabat, Morocco. After returning from her gap year, she intends to pursue a degree in international affairs.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Jabari Allen discovered his passion for fostering change while studying at Truman State University. As the self-proclaimed busiest person on campus, Jabari devoted the majority of his time to his fraternity and to GlobeMed, a student-run nonprofit. While involved with GlobeMed, Jabari saw first-hand how young people can affect change with regard to global health equity.  A summer internship in the Rockies exposed him to the wild and wonderful beauty of nature, and a second internship in Northern California provided the opportunity to learn more about preserving natural resources through water and energy conservation. However, it was a road trip across the Southwest that catalyzed the transition from concerned citizen to environmental advocate. While listening to Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Climate vs. Capitalism Jabari realized an overwhelming need to fight for health equity and environmental justice, and that in fact the two were intrinsically inseparable. Regardless of the mission, Jabari operates on the premise that innovation is the best vehicle for delivering societal change.

After a baseball-filled childhood in the suburbs of Atlanta, Ryan Szvetecz is currently attending the University of Georgia to pursue degrees in Finance and Environmental Economics and Management.  He is the oldest of 3 siblings, and has two beautiful dogs back at home.  In his free time, he enjoys dominating the competition in intramural sports, exploring the many incredible restaurants Athens, GA has to offer, and relaxing with friends.  In high school, Ryan knew that he wanted to work in the business world, but after taking an environmental science class, he became fascinated by the environmental problems facing the world today.  He is excited by the role businesses can play in becoming a more sustainable society, and in the future, wants to help companies embrace a triple-bottom line approach.

Cindy Wang is a first-generation Chinese American college student who is currently attending Macaulay Honors College at CCNY. She explored the fine arts while attending LaGuardia High School, which allowed her to develop a natural admiration and appreciation for the environment. In her free time, she likes to participate in marches and rallies for social and environmental change. She recently attended the annual climate march in response to the Climate Summit and plans on continuing her social activism on campus by forming a Sustainability club. She aspires to continue exploring the common link between the arts and the environment and hopes to one day become a conservationist scientist.

Proudly hailing from the mountains of northern Utah, Samuel Good has gained a respect and love for the environment by living in it: whether that be mountain biking on his high school’s competitive race team, skiing at one of many local ski resorts, or just taking a walk with his parents and two younger sisters on the trails near his home. Samuel participates in a variety of extra curricular activities, one of those being music. As an accomplished pianist and violist, he has participated in an array of musical events, perhaps most notable the Sid and Mary Foulger International Music Festival and the Northern Utah Youth Symphony. In addition to music, Samuel conducts research on environmental issues that press our society today, and is currently experimenting with algae-based biofuels at a local university. Samuel hopes to pursue a career in environmental-based engineering to further advance our country’s use of renewable and alternative forms of energy.

Sean Bradley is a filmmaker, photographer & recent graduate of the University of Georgia. He began his involvement with Greening Forward to tell the story of the annual IYEYS summit in New York City but has been passionate about environmental action ever since he was a kid. Growing up as an ally for the natural world, he continues to try to capture the importance of this via his media, and he is the founder of a nature-oriented video production company in Atlanta, Georgia.

Youth Council

Our youth council, composed of youth ages 13-20, advise and support our staff in fundraising, program management, and visibility for Greening Forward.

Kayla Zhu

Youth Council President
North Farmington High School
Farmington Hills, MI

Rose Straus

Drake High School
San Anselmo, California

Jayden Ruiz

Emmaus High School
Emmaus, Pennsylvania
Kayla Zhu lives in Farmington Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, where she attends high school. She first opened her eyes to the impact of environmental issues as a legislative intern for a local state representative. After being inspired by the constituents that voiced how environmental issues affected their daily lives, Kayla began to advocate for environmentally conscience policies through political work for pro-environment public servants at the local, state, and national levels. Kayla was also the Michigan Youth Delegate to the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogues, and she interned at the United Nations this past summer. While at the UN, Kayla served as a representative from the UN Major Group for Children and Youth to the 2016 High-Level Political Forum on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Kayla hopes to study public policy in college and pursue a career in international affairs, while continuing to advocate for environmentally sustainable policies.  

Everyone has something that they are really attached to as a kid. For Rose Straus, this was seals. Some would call it obsession, others would call it passion, but Rose’s love for seals eventually morphed her into an environmentalist, and she made it her life’s mission to help save earth’s ecosystems. Rose and her three siblings and parents are all originally from Canada. Now living in the San Francisco Bay Area, Rose is a hiker and backpacker, scuba diver, and lover of music and nature. Rose has always enjoyed fundraising for various environmental organizations, and helping with local gardening and restoration projects. Now in highschool, Rose participates in environmental clubs, mock trial, volunteers at the local audubon center, and sings opera and jazz. Rose dreams of becoming a marine biologist and environmental activist, specifically interested in helping to stop global warming.

Jayden Ruiz is a high school student living in Pennsylvania. He is a former Boy Scout who retains the love of hiking and the outdoors that his time in scouting gave him. In school he is an avid sculptor and participant in art contests. Outside of school along with environmentalism he is a student of piano and the martial arts as well as an avid gardener. In his spare time he enjoys writing and composing music or poetry. Jayden hopes to obtain a degree in biology and to use it to deal with pressing environmental issues such as global climate change and sustainability.