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Our History


Solar Youth, Inc. was founded in the fall of 2000 to help address the tremendous need for positive youth development opportunities in New Haven’s low-income neighborhoods.  

After graduating from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, founder Joanne Sciulli saw the amazing potential of the natural and cultural resources of New Haven to be used for education, community service and leadership development. After being awarded a Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship from the Echoing Green Foundation, she, co-Founder Heather Gilbert and a group of young people developed the mission and program model (Kids Explore! Kids Do! Kids Teach!) that ultimately became the basis for Solar Youth.  

In 2007, Solar Youth staff, board members and youth developed a Strategic Plan that defined our vision for growth, resulting in the decision to develop a pipeline of programs for youth of all ages in specific underserved neighborhoods in New Haven.  These neighborhood-based programs came to be called our Cycle of Stewardship

We piloted these neighborhood-based programs in the Westville Manor public housing development from 2008 to 2010, with extensive participation from the neighborhood’s youth and the community at large, and considerable evidence of strong positive developmental outcomes for our young Stewards. We are now amidst a period of replication of our Cycle of Stewardship model in West Hills and Newhallville, two additional underserved communities in New Haven.  We hope to eventually offer the Cycle of Stewardship in additional neighborhoods in New Haven, and potentially other cities in Connecticut and around the country (either by Solar Youth or other organizations).