Our youth-created, youth-driven organization is powered by high school and college students from across the United States. Our mentors at Green Schools Alliance, a network for students and adults interested in building healthy, sustainable school solutions, assist our organization with our fiscal and monetary policies.

Robert Walton

Geosciences and Economics
Commonwealth Honors College
at UMass Amherst
Class of 2019


Ryan Szvetecz

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

Cindy Wang

Outreach Manager
Environmental Earth Systems Science
Macaulay Honors College at City College of New York
Class of 2019 »

Deanna Upchurch

Vice President of Digital Content
Peace, War, and Defense
UNC at Chapel Hill
Class of 2021 »

Kathy Liu

Social Media Strategist
Materials Science and Engineering
Stanford University
Class of 2021 »

Cary Lynne Thigpen

Youth Council Liaison
Political Science
University Of Georgia
Class of 2019 »


Forbi Perise

ERuDeF institute of Biodiversity and Non-Profit Studies
Class of 2020 »

While a Boy Scout in his hometown of Concord Massachusetts, Robert Walton was engaged by the beauty of the natural world through camping trips and hikes with his troop. As he grew older, he discovered how to lead others in his views through leadership on his wrestling team and in his fraternity. Currently attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst for a degree in Geosciences and Economics, Robert is involved in research with the US Fish and Wildlife services and his school program, ICONS, on the effects of environmental change on different societal issues. Robert plans to use his experiences to make sure everyone has the opportunity to an equal voice about problems that concern them. Over the next few years, he plans to expand Greening Forward’s influence amongst the young Changemaker community, and the country as a whole.

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 junior at the City College of New York, majoring in Environmental Earth Systems Science and minoring in Studio Art. In her free time, she likes to paint and draw art. Her passion for art is reflected in her work as a prospective climate scientist through modeling and visual analysis. After all, how can anyone make a statement about climate change without looking into the data first? She is interested in modeling data to reflect anthropogenic impact and interpreting the system dynamics in nature. Cindy plans to attend graduate school for Environmental Science while also pursuing her passion for art.

Deanna Upchurch grew up surrounded by natural beauty in a small town outside of Nashville, Tennessee. She loves traveling, reading, and spending time with her family. After graduating high school, she took a gap year to study Arabic in Rabat, Morocco. Deanna is currently studying Peace, War, and Defense at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kathy Liu could go on for ages on the beauty of the environment in her home, Utah, and often does just that when frequently hiking or skiing in the mountains or Utah’s many state and national parks. Kathy channels her passion for sustainability to research and innovate green energy materials, and will be pursuing a degree in a materials science or chemistry-related field at Stanford University. Kathy also loves traveling, photography, and friends, and looks forward to advancing environmental advocacy to empower youth across the world to help change the world.

Cary Lynne Thigpen is currently a Political Science/Pre-Law major at the University of Georgia. She is passionate about environmental protection as a direct result of the numerous family trips to National Parks she has taken in the past 20 years. In addition to schoolwork, Cary Lynne’s days are filled with dogs, volunteering for various campaigns, spontaneous travel, and A Capella. Cary Lynne hopes to pursue a career in the lobbying field, and eventually wind up in politics.

Forbi Perise is 21 years old and has spent his entire life in Buea, the capital of the southwest region of Cameroon. In high school he studied mainly science subjects and had interests in biology and geology. Currently, he is studying agro-forestry at the ERuDeF Institute of Biodiversity and Non-Profit studies at the undergraduate level. In his free time he likes reading, drawing, and environmental work, such as collecting plastic bottles for a local recycling company. His aim is to ensure that Cameroon’s streams are not polluted, and that agriculture done in his community is sustainable and doesn’t affect biodiversity.

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

Jayden Ruiz

Emmaus High School
Emmaus, Pennsylvania

Neha Middela

Youth Council Membership Coordinator
International Academy
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
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.  

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.

Neha Middela is a high school student from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In recent years, she has become passionate about environmental action and protection, from both a scientific and public policy standpoint. She is a member of the Michigan Youth Conservation Council, and channels her environmental activism into writing for her school newspaper, literary magazine, and several online publications. In the future, she hopes to go into the fields of global health or food security and believes that sustainability and environmental consciousness are integral to ensuring equality around the world.