The last few years have been a time of growth for Grades of Green – in the past 2 years alone, we’ve experienced a 30% growth in our schools and students and we more than doubled our reach in our number of countries. Of course, behind every successful nonprofit is an elite team of Board Members who help make growth and change possible. Since 2013 Chris Gebhardt, CEO of Stir, Strategy, and Story, LLC. served as Grades of Green’s Board Chair and has enabled the Grades of Green team to inspire and empower hundreds of thousands of students across the entire world care for the environment. This year, Debra Hockemeyer, co-founder of Third Dimension, has stepped up to lead the team as Grades of Green’s new Board Chair.
A big thank you to Chris for his years of leadership. We look forward to Debra continuing to lead us on our mission to inspire and empower kids to care for the environment. Get to know more about Debra by reading her interview below!
Favorite Grades of Green Activity: No Idle Zones
Debra has always been sensitive to car exhaust and how it pollutes the environment and makes cities and parking garages smell. One day when she was filling up her car with gasoline, the cost came out to over $100! She realized that she was disgusted with the various wars over oil, a resource that largely came from other countries and wasn’t truly ours. Debra wanted to do her part to help reduce our country’s dependency on oil. Eventually, she became one of the first 400 women to own a Tesla, which runs completely on electricity!
Favorite Outdoor Activity: Hiking
Debra’s favorite outdoor activity is hiking, and her most memorable trip was hiking Half Dome in Yosemite. She got the idea to hike Half Dome for her 50th birthday – “half a dome, half a century”. In order to hike the massive rock formation, Debra spent 6 months training for the 15-mile trip with 5,000 feet of elevation gain. To prepare for the high altitude, Debra used intermittent hypoxic therapy (IHT) in which she wore a special mask that decreased oxygen levels in the air she breathed and ultimately increased the oxygen utilization in her muscle cells. She also trained on a stair master with a 25-pound backpack!
First Involvement with Grades of Green: During a Social Venture Partners Fast Pitch
Debra first got involved with Grades of Green after working with Kim Martin, one of Grades of Green’s four co-founders, through Social Venture Partners Fast Pitch - a program in which innovators hone their ideas and improve their pitches via clinics and coaching from professionals. Debra chose to mentor Grades of Green out of 20 other nonprofits, and helped Grades of Green design a 3-minute elevator pitch for fundraising. Debra was asked to join our board, but could not at the time, due to her commitment serving on another board. Eventually she realized that she resonated more with the mission of Grades of Green, and eventually joined our Board of Advisors. Soon after, Debra was asked to serve as Vice Chair of our Board of Directors, and in June she became our Board Chair.
Reason for caring for the environment: One planet, one chance
Although Debra cares about the environment for multiple reasons, she believes that because we only have one planet, we only have one chance. She was interested in science growing up, but the extent of environmental education back then was largely restricted to trash, so she was unaware of the many ways we each personally impact our surroundings, until a few years ago. Debra wants to help Grades of Green utilize modern technology to communicate with millions of youth and spread the word about the need for environmental protection, and the urgency to take action now. She believes, as do we, that our youth are our best hope for a healthier planet and greener future!