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California’s top education official nominates Yosemite High for national ‘green’ award

Worms crawl around inside a worm farm at Yosemite High School in Merced in October. Teacher Jeff Rivero and his Green Team tend the worm farm along with composting bins and a raised garden. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Rivero with the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators.
Worms crawl around inside a worm farm at Yosemite High School in Merced in October. Teacher Jeff Rivero and his Green Team tend the worm farm along with composting bins and a raised garden. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Rivero with the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

Yosemite High School is up for another national award for its conservation efforts and environmental and health initiatives.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson nominated Yosemite High and two other California schools to compete in the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition program.

Yosemite High was nominated for its coordinated school health approach, which includes students having daily access to a registered nurse, a health aide and a counselor. Students also lead the school’s composting program and a collaboration with Tree Partners USA to select appropriate plants to reduce the heat island effect.

The school also has a solar array on campus that can produce up to 4.16 kilowatts of energy. The equipment allows students to learn how to assemble and disassemble a solar panel. In a presentation to the school board, students in the Green Technology and Energy Conservation pathway estimated switching to solar could result in savings of $40,000 a year.

“These schools and districts serve as role models for their students in two important ways,” Torlakson, who started his public service career as a high school science teacher and coach, said in a statement. “First, they manage their own facilities wisely by saving energy, conserving water, and reducing their impact on the environment. Next, they provide innovative education programs that teach students about nature, the importance of clean air and water, and how to make good choices to preserve the environment for future generations.”

Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Yosemite High teacher Jeff Rivero with the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. In another visit, Torlakson himself met with students installing solar panels and recognized the campus for being at the Gold Level of the California Green Ribbon Schools Award.

Rivero said Yosemite High is the only continuation school so far to be recognized for such awards. The school serves about 340 students who come from other district schools, mostly for credit recovery.

Torlakson said programs such as the ones at Yosemite High are particularly important because of the many threats facing the environment, such as climate change.

“These schools follow and advance a proud California tradition of caring for the environment and preserving our state’s stunning natural resources that are celebrated and known throughout the world,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Education will announce the winning schools and district on April 24.

Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477

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