The Green Balloon Fellowship

A first-of-its-kind, learn and earn fellowship program for recent high school graduates

To fulfill Rooted School’s mission of providing underserved and talented teenagers with career and financial pathways, the Green Balloon Fellowship program connects graduates ages 18-22 to jobs with pioneering companies in their local regions. Following our success in New Orleans, we aim to expand this program to additional partner communities facing similar challenges.

How the Green Balloon Fellowship Works

For this learn and earn style program, the Rooted School team first works to find out what companies need, focusing on a position’s KPIs, Industry Based Certifications, and soft skills. Then we reverse engineer our programming with the IBC or technical assessment as the blueprint for basic competence. 

Eight out of ten Rooted School graduates earned at least one tech industry training credential, including in Autodesk Inventor, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, CIW Advanced HTML and CSS3 certification, and inbound sales and email marketing programs. 

Once we understand the KPIs and credentials, we deploy high-touch and wrap-around strategies any effective educator would to ensure mastery in a classroom, which is why our fellows have been so successful during our pilot year. We’ve found that it’s very hard to turn down someone right out of high school who can competently meet KPIs for a role that companies struggle to hire college graduates for. 

The Green Balloon Fellowship in New Orleans

The Challenge

The Green Balloon Fellowship exists for reasons similar to why Rooted School was founded in the first place: New Orleans was and is facing a significant existential challenge—as well as an opportunity. 

The challenge is that the average child born in this city is earning $30,000 a year by the age of 35. The challenge is that we live in a tale of two cities, where there is a $40,000 gap in median household income between white families and black families. This gap isn’t showing signs of reducing itself, with rapid gentrification happening in New Orleans and higher-paying jobs going to people who were not born in this community.

The Opportunity 

Amid these challenges, New Orleans has been nicknamed the Silicon Bayou because of the projected growth of thousands of family-sustaining jobs across several industries, many of them within tech. Many of these are jobs that are basic and middle-skill and don’t require 4-year college degrees, but still require more than a high school diploma—and many companies struggle to find local talent to meet those needs. 

The Results

Rooted School graduates within this learn and earn program have found great success after high school. Our New Orleans Green Balloon Fellows now work at companies including:

Rooted School Is Seeking Partner Communities!

We have been encouraged by the success of this program in improving the lives of New Orleans Rooted School students. As we grow the fellowship over time, our hope is to build a network of demonstration cities for how to create a grow-your-own talent pipeline that is K-12 and employer-driven, and we’re seeking partner communities to make it happen.

If you’d like to begin establishing the Green Balloon Fellowship to help youth within your community, please contact us! We can do this—but it will take bold, pioneering companies and communities to make it work.

Press mentions

These 232 innovative schools are challenging old assumptions about education
June 23, 2022
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Column: Tech-focused charter school comes to the Portland area
June 22, 2022
Rooted School, an initiative that opens charter high schools aimed at overcoming local talent gaps, is coming to Vancouver.
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Rooted School set to open in Vancouver in August 2022
June 22, 2022
The school, which has two fully operating schools in New Orleans and Indianapolis, will be Vancouver’s first public charter high school
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A New Orleans school gave students $50 a week. Then researchers watched how they spent it.
June 22, 2022
Some saved for college, others invested in stocks or cryptocurrency.
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New Orleans charter school offers students tech certifications, chance at high- paying jobs
June 22, 2022
Rooted School offers alternate path to financial freedom
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Rooted School’s High School Graduates Receive Jobs at Fortune 500 Companies and Scholarships to Top Tier Universities Across America
May 14, 2022
The charter school’s 2021 graduates chose to attend universities such as Tulane, Villanova and Case Western Reserve, and work at top tech companies including Entergy, Ochsner and Lucid  Rooted School is one of the most innovative high school models in the U.S., with the aim to rapidly reduce America’s...
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Rooted School’s 2021 Green Balloon Fellowship Recipients Receive Jobs at Pioneering Tech Companies Right Out of High School
June 17, 2021
The charter school’s 2021 graduates chose to work at top tech companies including Entergy, Ochsner and Lucid and attend universities such as Tulane, Villanova and Case Western Reserve  Rooted School gives students an active role in their future careers by teaching skills that are in-demand for today’s most successful...
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New Orleans Saints players surprise Rooted School students, present $50K to school
December 3, 2019
It started out as just another Tuesday for students at the Rooted School, an Uptown New Orleans charter high school focused on teaching the latest skills needed in tech industry jobs.
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A New School Takes Root in New Orleans—And Races Against Time
October 16, 2018
One of the city’s newest school leaders, Jonathan Johnson, is focused on a different number: 228. It’s emblazoned on banners hung on the walls of Rooted School. It’s on Johnson’s mind when he walks the halls, or travels out of town to recruit donors, college partners, or companies where he...
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How Rooted, A New Orleans Charter High School, Prepares Freshmen For $20/Hour Jobs
August 27, 2018
There’s only one rookie school on the way-too-short list of New Orleans public schools that beat the state school performance average in 2018. It's called Rooted, the first from-scratch, open-enrollment high school to open here in a decade.
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NOLA’s Rooted School Aims to ‘Beat the Streets’ by Graduating Students Ready for High-Tech Jobs
September 29, 2017
Jonathan Johnson has his work cut out for him. In a quiet room on the second floor of a synagogue in a historic New Orleans neighborhood, 16 ninth-graders are trying to master 3-D design software.
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Charter Schools Have An Awkward Secret: They’re Not Very Good At Innovating
June 1, 2015
That’s when Mitchell met Jonathan Johnson, a teacher turned entrepreneur. He had been prototyping his idea for a new charter school, called Rooted, through an after-school program, and was looking for a chance to test the model during the school day, in the form of a “school within a...
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Entrepreneurs Are Changing The Future Of Education By Starting New Schools In New Orleans
May 27, 2015
Rooted School aims to bridge the gap between what’s being taught in high schools and what skills are needed for the jobs being created in Greater New Orleans’ high-growth, high-wage industries. With 4.0’s help, Johnson has learned how to build a board, how to negotiate, and how to be...
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New Orleans Educator Dreams Of Teaching Tech To Beat The Streets
April 7, 2015
Jonathan Johnson began teaching social studies to eighth-graders at one of the city's charter schools in 2010. After a rough start, Johnson says he became known as the "warrior teacher" because his classroom was all about "fighting the war on low expectations for African-American youth."
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