Nicodemus Wilderness Project
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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Ridgewood, New Jersey, USA

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Ridgewood, New Jersey, USA
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vpan2012



Registered: December 2010
City/Town/Province: Ridgewood
Posts: 1
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Our earth is in trouble. With factories and cars all over the world emitting tons of carbon into the atmosphere, oceans getting polluted, and energy being obtained from nonrenewable sources, the time is now to do what we can for the next generations. The ultimate way to better the fate of the future is to become sustainable. Sustainability calls for the enforcement of social and environmental practices that protect and enhance the human and natural resources needed by future generations to enjoy a quality of life equal to or greater than our own. As the world we live in is slowly being consumed by excessive energy consumption, we must do everything we can to improve our carbon footprint.
During the beginning of my high school career, motivated by my passion for this issue, I promised myself to help my world consume less energy. I wanted to make it a goal of mine to inform others in my community of the many problems our environment faces today, about carbon emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels. With a persistent mind, I worked with the Students for Environmental Action (SEA) club at my school, Ridgewood High School, to launch a project that would achieve this goal. The first thing that came to mind was a problem my school constantly faced: excessive light use. Everyday I noticed that the classroom lights were always kept on, even after school hours when the rooms were unoccupied. After research, we found out that they were kept on for four more extra hours each day than necessary! Furthermore, the biggest source of energy in schools is the lighting, which accounts for 30% of the school’s overall energy use. I was shocked; I knew something had to be done. As a result, I established the Turn Off the Lights (TOTL) project at my school, with the support from the club members, the advisor and the principal. The goal was simple: to raise awareness about this issue while reducing consumption at the same time. Every Friday afterschool, members of the SEA club went around the school to turn off the lights in the classrooms. Week after week, I made sure to document our progress and maintain my peers’ active participation. Finally, in a couple of months’ time, we saw that our efforts lowered the cost of electricity drastically, saving the school thousands of dollars in energy costs. It truly stressed the environmental need for the project and at the same time, helped spread awareness around the school. As a matter of fact, the ultimate milestone was when the project got me recognized as the solo statewide winner of the 2010 Igniting Creative Energy contest, sponsored by Johnson Controls Inc. This achievement even received a special report on WCBS radio, giving our work a publicity boost all over the area. I remember the next day when my band teacher came up to me and told me that he heard me on the radio—I was both surprised and ecstatic!
After becoming Co-president of SEA, I soon started setting out with bigger goals. I recognized the immediate impact of TOTL and saw its potential for development. As a result, I started another an even more innovative initiative called “Students Saving Energy” (SSE). I like to think of the SSE project as kind of like an umbrella over the Turn Off the Lights project. After spending days of planning and organizing, I decided it would be divided into three stages: Reduce, Educate, Sustain. The first stage, to Reduce, calls for the direct student action to save energy. The Turn Off the Lights project is the perfect example of students physically reducing energy consumption in the school building. The act of “doing” immediately brings this issue into the spotlight. The next stage, to Educate, is significant in the ways of raising awareness and educating the whole student body. TOTL is definitely a good first step in introducing the issue of energy consumption to the school, but further education is needed to really bring the problem into the spotlight. By informing students through petitions, posters, assemblies and presentations, they will begin to understand the weight of the issue of excessive energy consumption. When enough support has been gathered, the Sustain stage requires all the effort built up to be channeled into pushing for energy efficiency. This is the final stage in SSE’s route toward sustainability.
Next, I worked with SEA members to overtake the Education stage. We utilized as many resources as we could to teach our community about energy conservation. Funded with my own savings, I created a website for Students Saving Energy (www.studentssavingenergy.org) that included all the information about what our club was doing for others to learn about. I organized an assembly at my school, as well as had a few artists in our club design an environmental mural. For the annual school club fair, we put up a booth which provided information to students and parents about our club goals on tackling energy consumption. Another exciting opportunity came when SEA went to an elementary school in our community to give a presentation to the students there. It was their “Early Earth Day,” and we were asked to educate the kids about environmental issues affecting our world today. Not only did we foster active participation and curiosity, but we inspired them to take their own steps to improve their carbon footprints. We made a positive environmental impact on our community by setting ourselves as role models for the young kids. By teaching them the important issues while they are still young, we have paved the way for more environmentally-conscious minds in the future.
We didn’t stop there. We wanted some sort of change that would be able to sustain our hard work and show that all our efforts really did make an impact. Within my club, we discussed possible ideas of sustainability, conversing with each other as well as other students, teachers, and even the principal about how we could maintain our project in the long run. Finally, we decided on something that was efficient and economically-viable: a motion-sensored lighting system. The surprise came, though, when we found out that the school district was already planning to fund the installation of the motion-sensored lights, as a result of our energy saving project! Due to our hard work, the grounds for the final stage would be accomplished. This energy efficient improvement will finally sustain all the work we’ve put into reducing energy consumption. Immediately, after conferring with the club, our final goal became clear: we had to do whatever it took to make sure the motion-sensored lights installation carried through. From that point on, we never forgot our objective. We made sure that the school district recognized our goals and our efforts to gather support from the students and administration—including the Teacher’s Senate—to find out about progress on the motion-sensored lights project. We constantly pushed for it.
Ever since, I always kept that promise I made a while ago in the back of my mind. Do whatever it takes to help my world consume less energy. I had first started with a simple idea and was then able to expand it by developing a project with my club and my school. But I couldn’t help wondering about the even bigger impact we would make if we got a whole network of schools across the nation turning off the lights. If my school alone can save so much energy from such simple idea, imagine the amount of energy that can be saved from thousands of schools! I knew there were schools just like mine that were trying to deal with the problems of wasting money and resources from unnecessary energy consumption. I wanted to help those schools become more energy-efficient too by connecting with my school, and joining us on the same path toward that goal. Thus, my club began using the Students Saving Energy website as a tool for helping other schools embark on the same journey as my school toward sustainability. Our goal is to have more than 200 schools join the SSE initiative by the end of 2011—something we can definitely achieve with hard work and dedication. We started reaching out to everyone we knew—school friends, family friends, friends of friends, teachers, authorities—basically anyone with a connection to a school environmental club somewhere in the nation. We utilized any resource we could get our hands on to establish connections.
Eventually, we started receiving signs of interest. Schools from all over, like Connecticut and Virginia, started pledging their support toward this project and joining the Student Saving Energy network. Once we received their commitment, we immediately got them started with the Three-stage method to Reduce, Educate and Sustain. I made sure to always remain in continuous contact with each of the leaders of the SSE chapters and keep up to date on their progress. Currently, 12 schools are SSE members and are working to reduce their energy consumption, educate their schools about their efforts and ultimately sustain their efforts with a permanent energy efficient installation. Some have actually started the Turn Off the Lights project, like the Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland. Others already have made progress with efficient systems and are working toward even more improvements. In the future, we hope to see all schools in the nation follow the same method to achieve sustainability.
The Students Saving Energy project benefited the community in so many ways. First of all, the Turn Off the Lights project inspired students and teachers alike to become more energy-conscious and initiated the promised installation of motion-sensored lights. I can proudly say that my school has undergone a clear transformation into becoming a more energy efficient and sustainable institution. Furthermore, we reached our goal of helping schools in other communities consume less energy as well, using my school as a model. We were able to educate more people than we ever anticipated about the harmful effects of excessive energy use. Because so many of us collaborated, we were able to save money on our electricity bills and make a statement all over the country.
I have always been told that spending those extra ten seconds to go back and turn off the lights in the room wouldn’t make a difference. Yet, using ten seconds of my energy is nowhere near the four hours of energy that would be consumed if no one did anything about it. I believe that my efforts allowed me to view the world in a completely different way. I’ve always grown up with the notion that only the biggest efforts will make the biggest difference. Now I know that’s not true. The simple idea of turning off the lights has taught me to challenge this belief. I learned that in order to push for change, you have to start small. It’s overlooking the big picture and striving for the little goals that will have a lasting effect.
From this experience, I gained some very valuable skills. The Turn Off the Lights project and Students Saving Energy helped me acquire the important ability to effectively communicate with others. From arranging meetings, to putting data together, to building our image I was able to utilize the skills needed to create a strong foundation. One of the most difficult parts was building the website because I never had experience with this part of technology. I was forced to face many obstacles dealing with website errors and protocol, like the time when I tried to figure out how to change the font. Thankfully, I was able to find a solution for each problem, while learning technical skills at the same time.
Equally as challenging though, was finding connections. I sent out so many emails to both friends and strangers, but only a few replied. Countless hours were put in trying to communicate with other students, whether it was by email, facebook, or phone. There were times when I wondered if I would ever build a strong enough foundation. However, when I did get a response my doubts were instantly dissolved. Reading the emails of students who wanted to join gave me hope that my goals really did have the capability of turning into reality. I clearly remember the moment of joy I felt after a school in Virginia told me they were going to start the Turn Off the Lights project. It was times like this that propelled me to keep on going and taught me to never give up.
Overall, the biggest lesson I learned was this: Don’t be afraid to start small. No matter what you accomplish, it is an accomplishment well worth the effort. I learned that there are so many kids out there with similar goals. That’s why I established the Students Saving Energy network—to bring together those like-minded students. With this powerful force created, we will have the ability to spread our message of sustainability across the nation. Imagine how much power a hundred schools can muster, working together. Imagine the amount influence we would have as a united force. In the future, I am inspired to take it even further. In my school, I hope to explore even more ways to help our school become energy-efficient. After the installation of a motion-sensored lighting system, we will seek improvements like florescent light bulbs, solar panels, and smart meters. Each project we complete will immediately be followed by a new one so that we never stray from our path toward sustainability. As for the network, I will definitely continue to maintain communication and build relationships with other students—maybe even around the world! You see, energy consumption is a world-wide problem and thus, should be addressed globally. Taking that extra step will prove that students can make a difference to achieve a greener earth. The power lies in the numbers. If all students work together, a lasting impact will be created.


END OF ESSAY



Post-project Interview with NWP:


WHERE DO YOU ATTEND OR PLAN TO ATTEND COLLEGE AND WHAT IS YOUR FIELD OF STUDY/INTEREST?


Currently, I am still in the process of considering colleges, so I don't have a specific one in mind. However, I am very interested in pursuing a field relating to the liberal arts and the environment, like Environmental Studies.


HOW WILL YOU USE THIS SCHOLARSHIP TOWARD YOUR EDUCATION?


I will use this scholarship as a way to help pay for my future college tuition. Quality education should never be sacrificed by financial setbacks. This scholarship will be able to open more paths for me and lessen the burden on my parents!

HOW ELSE WILL YOU BE PAYING FOR YOUR ACADEMIC AND RELATED EXPENSES WHILE IN COLLEGE?


My parents will provide the initial financial support; however, through college and after graduation, I will find a job to support myself and slowly reimburse my parents again.


WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE EDUCATIONAL, CAREER, AND LIFE GOALS?


From this point, I aspire to continue gaining knowledge and a greater perspective of the world around me. My goal is to maintain academic excellence to pursue even higher goals, like getting into law school. From there, I see myself delving into the field of Environmental Law, which blends my two greatest passions: preserving the environment and getting my voice heard in order to take a stand and fight for justice.


In the future, I aim to not only see change in the world’s attitude toward the environment, but to make change. One of the most important attributes of the human mind is the capacity to have a vision and the ability to achieve it. I know that today, the issues we must deal with in our environment are becoming even more urgent. As our resources are slowly being consumed, we must do what we can now to ensure sustainability for future generations. Science is becoming even more intertwined with society as people begin to rely more and more on technological developments. My aspiration is to use that parallel connection between science and society to devise methods to make change. I see the potential of renewable technology in the lives of people in the future. My goal is to explore the endless ways of combining innovation and imagination to help the environment and the world we live in. I want to use my curiosity about the world to push for a cause I believe in and to try new approaches to arrive at solutions. Most of all, I want to turn my passion into something tangible that can make the world a better, cleaner, and more sustainable place to live in.


WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE LONG-TERM BENEFITS TO YOUTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT MADE POSSIBLE BY THE APPRENTICE ECOLOGIST INITIATIVE?


The Apprentice Ecologist Initiative plays such an influential role in the development of the ever-expanding youth environmental movement. This organization not only recognizes the hard work of young people to protect and preserve the environment, but it motivates them to continue their efforts. It inspires countless others to join in and undertake their own initiatives as well. Most importantly, it creates a foundation of future environmental leaders by providing the resources and extra support they need to help them continue their goals maintain their vision to help the environment.


HOW HAS YOUR APPRENTICE ECOLOGIST INITIATIVE PROJECT ENRICHED YOUR LIFE?


The Apprentice Ecologist Initiative project enriched my life by making me realize the true value of the hard work and effort I put into my own project. It allowed me to take a look at what I've accomplished and see the meaning of my actions in a different perspective. By viewing my efforts within a miscellany of other projects, I was able to evaluate it as a whole in order to make further improvements. I gained a great understanding of the diversity of the countless other projects being implemented around me-- they are all so different, yet have the same goals of making our world a better place to live in. It made me realize that I'm not alone because there are so many others out there who share my aspirations. Now, I have a better understanding of my options for reaching out to others to work with them in order to achieve our shared goals and passions in the future. The Apprentice Ecologist Initiative has shown me that with this unified effort, our future generation can develop into a strong force that will enact many changes in the world.


WHY DO YOU FEEL IT IS IMPORTANT TO BE AN ACTIVE STEWARD OF THE ENVIRONMENT NOW AND IN THE FUTURE?


I feel it is important to be an active steward of the environment because now is the crucial time to take action. Why should we wait when the world around us is slowly depleting? I especially believe that the youth has the ability to influence and generate creative potential and new ideas. If we act now, we can establish a strong basis for further actions we will take in the future. Years from now, the environment will be in even worse condition, and we need active stewards to enforce sustainable practices and devise new solutions to combat the growing environmental issues we will have to address.
Date: December 29, 2010 Views: 8694 File size: 21.8kb, 92.1kb : 640 x 480
Hours Volunteered: 500
Volunteers: 15
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 & 14 to 17
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