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Meet Allie Bussjaeger and Emily Gee of Grades of Green in El Segundo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Allie Bussjaeger and Emily Gee.

Emily and Allie have had the pleasure of working with Grades of Green since the beginning! Emily began as an intern while in college at USC in 2009. The nonprofit was founded in 2009, and the website launched in 2010 which officially put Grades of Green on the map! While interning, one of Emily’s responsibilities was to recruit other interns to join the team. Allie interviewed in the fall of 2011, while being a student at Cal State Long Beach. As being the first two employees at a small nonprofit, Allie and Emily quickly learned the power in collaborating, creating and growing the organization together. Allie started as an intern, and was hired as a program coordinator in 2012. She has since grown into a program manager, and now a director. Emily began as an intern, and was hired as the first communications manager in 2014 upon receiving her master’s degree in strategic public relations from USC. As of earlier this year, Emily and Allie share the role of director of programs. Emily manages the New York, NY office and oversees Grades of Green’s global programs. Allie is headquartered at the El Segundo, Los Angeles office and oversees regional programs in the LA area.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Working at a small nonprofit has been wonderful, as it has given both of us the opportunity to learn tons of different skills and to gain firsthand experience working closely with the four founders. We learned that everyone has an important role in a small nonprofit, and while it is difficult sometimes to listen to everyone’s ideas and opinions, it ultimately makes for a more comprehensive organization when everyone is a part of the growing process. Along the way, we have moved offices three times, and have even opened a second office in New York! This has come with some really exciting expansion opportunities, and challenges in learning how to communicate across the coast. Emily and Allie constantly talk about the best ways to connect team members in both offices to give all team members the chance to cultivate their passion for Grades of Green’s work. Grades of Green’s founders felt deeply about the importance of collaboration and Allie and Emily talk regularly about how to keep this at the forefront of the organization as we grow!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Grades of Green – what should we know?
Grades of Green is an environmental education nonprofit dedicated to providing k-12 students with free, fun and hands-on Grades of Green Activities to inspire and empower students to care for the environment. Anyone wanting to implement sustainability programs can register their school online—at no cost—to gain access to step-by-step instructions to 40+ Grades of Green Activities, including downloadable games, resources, and artwork, and measure their environmental progress.

What sets us apart is that every Grades of Green school receives a one-on-one Grades of Green Advisor to mentor the school as they implement Grades of Green Activities. We have the pleasure of supporting over 500,000 students across 20 countries. Our specialty is working directly with students to help them hone their leadership skills while they take action to help the earth. Our students have led community wide campaigns to ban plastic bags, rolled out no idle zones at their schools, and held eco-festivals to inspire their community.

Emily and Allie are proud that Grades of Green has always kept the focus on students, and empowering them to use their creativity, talents and passion to make the world a better place. We are student-driven and love working with kids!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Grades of Green was founded by four incredibly smart, passionate, dedicated women who spent years bringing their vision to life. The founders have all served as staff and are now represented on our board. Allie and Emily worked directly for the founders for the first few years, and learned so much from each of them. We are grateful for the leadership of Kim Lewand Martin, Lisa Coppedge, Shaya Kirkpatrick and Suzanne Kretschmer who continue to support and inspire both of us!

We also have a wonderfully engaged board who has always supported our growth in the organization. We have had the pleasure of attending many board meetings which have given us the chance to see firsthand what it takes to run a successful nonprofit.

Emily and Allie are also grateful to work with our current Executive Director, Susan Warshaw. Susan has helped us grow professionally and has empowered us to truly lead the organization’s programs.

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