The South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority officially partnered on March 22 with Common Ground High School, a West Rock charter school that aims to inspire environmental leadership among students.
The “adoption” of CGHS by the RWA, a nonprofit organization that supplies water to Greater New Haven, formalizes the relationship between the school and the RWA, which has existed since 2011 in the form of after-school and summer programs.
Going forward, the RWA plans to sponsor guest teachers, offer job shadowing, support teachers and donate to the charter school. Although the RWA has worked in conjunction with CGHS for many years, city spokesman Laurence Grotheer said the official adoption was inspired by a comment Mayor Toni Harp made during a chamber of commerce meeting to RWA President and CEO Larry Bingaman about the value of business-school partnerships.
“Common Ground High School’s purpose of cultivating habits of healthy living and sustainable environmental practices aligns with the RWA’s vision of being an innovative water utility that sustains life, strengthens our communities and protects resources for future generations,” RWA Communications and Outreach Manager Kate Powell said.
The adoption aligns with the “conscious capitalism” movement Bingaman said the RWA sought to incorporate into its company in October. The movement encourages businesses to see themselves as serving a purpose higher than turning a profit.
Harp praised the collaboration between the RWA and CGHS at a Tuesday press event at CGHS, highlighting the positive impact the additional resources and mentorship will have on Elm City students interested in pursuing careers in sustainability.
“It is extremely beneficial, and will be, going forward, for additional resources to supplement public education,” Harp said. “It seems there’s a story every day about how public sector resources are stretched — we welcome the idea of these adoptions and encourage more potential adopters to ‘pay it forward’ in this way.”
Powell said it is important to reach out with potential future employees because close to half of the RWA’s employees will be eligible to retire within the next five years. The partnership will provide the RWA with the opportunity to introduce students to careers in the sustainable water industry.
Harp lauded the adoption for its potential to provide students with on-the-job training, giving students an advantage in the increasingly competitive job market. She emphasized the value of real-world experience as a supplement to traditional schooling.
The RWA has provided similar educational opportunities through an annual week-long environmental careers summer camp since 2011. Common Ground’s Development Assistant Kate Cebik said the camp teaches students about future careers in the field of public water utilities through activities like wading into the Mill River, which starts in Cheshire and flows through Hamden and New Haven, to collect water samples and specimens. She added that the campers also have the opportunity to work directly with Bingaman. The RWA sponsors an extended version of this same program throughout the school year so that interested students can have a more rigorous introduction to public water utilities.
The RWA provides an average of 46 million gallons of water to 430,000 consumers every day.
Correction, April 6: A previous version of the article said Kate Cebik was RWA’s Development Assistant. She is in fact Common Ground’s Development Assistant. A previous version of the article said the RWA provided 46,000 gallons of water each day. The RWA provides an average of 46 million gallons of water to 430,000 consumers every day.