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High School Students Complete Official Certification in Controlled Environment Agriculture

August 24, 2023

This week, we’re proud to announce that for the second year in a row, 33 high school students in our Workforce Development Program have officially graduated and attained professional certification in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)! For the past several weeks, the young farmer-scientists from the High School for Innovation and Advertising in Media, East Brooklyn Community High School, and Thomas A. Edison CTE High School have been hard at work, spending their summer diving deep into the science behind hydroponics. As they prepare for entry into the perpetually evolving field of urban agriculture, these students have studied, practiced, tested, and have now officially gained certification in one of the fastest growing sectors of the green economy.

Originally launched in the Summer of 2022 with funding from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), our CEA Workforce Development Program was the first of its kind in the city and helped connect students from Brooklyn and Queens with the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). This program aims to address the need for youth workforce development programs in NYC, especially for students from underserved communities, and helps build a pipeline of skilled workers in hydroponic farming, a growing sector of the green economy in NYC and other major cities. Students at the High School for Innovation and Advertising in Media were paid via the city’s SYEP program, while those at the other two schools were paid through their school’s stipend program or other workforce integration programs. 

Held in the students’ hydroponic classrooms, which are installed and maintained by NY Sun Works, the program uses experiential learning and practical assessments to help students understand and master building, operating, and troubleshooting a variety of hydroponic systems including the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) system, the Vine Crop (or Dutch Bucket) system, and aeroponic tower systems. Students also master farming techniques including implementing pest prevention methods, identifying and solving nutrient deficiencies, and performing other water quality tests among other important marketable technical skills. To prepare them for entry into the professional world, students also journeyed to the NY Sun Works office on the Upper West Side to meet with our team and hone their career-building skills. Using workplace exercises including mock interviews and resume reviews, our goal was to help build confidence and familiarity with professional settings, so these future scientists and leaders can feel empowered to pursue their passions and achieve their highest ambitions no matter what career path they choose. 

Congratulations to this newest class of farmer-scientists! We wish them the best of luck as they apply for jobs, colleges, or even return to their high school academics. We’re certain these bright young minds have even brighter futures, and are excited to welcome a new group of future climate scientists to our year and semester-long in-school CEA elective courses!


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