Scholars Recognized for Environmental Stewardship

Maine East Scholar Alyanna Villapando accepts her certificate for environmental stewardship.
On Saturday, April 20th, three Schuler Scholars graduated from the Center for Conservation Leadership’s Certificate Program. Alyanna Villapando of Maine East High School, Karla P. Figueroa of Round Lake High School, and Kala Juett of Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep were among 15 graduates who presented their self-designed environmental stewardship projects at the ceremony.

The Center for Conservation Leadership, a Lake Forest Open Lands Association initiative launched in 2009, “provides more sustained programming [in environmental education] to students who have shown an interest in nature and the environment but are not yet ready for, or do not have access to, internships at some of the major conservation organizations” (CCL). The Certificate Program is a year-long environmental education program aimed to provide students with an understanding of important conservation issues, strong leadership skills, and experience in research and recreation in the natural world.

Kala, a freshman, installed new recycling bins at Cristo Rey St. Martin in order to reduce the school's carbon footprint. She also raised environmental awareness through announcements at the school's weekly assembly.

Figueroa, a sophomore, worked with a mentor to develop a project called “Kids in Conservation”, which focused on teaching children about their role in caring for the environment. She developed lessons including hands-on activities and crafts to engage students in conservation education.

Villapando, also a sophomore, designed a campaign to raise consumer awareness of batteries’ harmful effects on the environment. Through her efforts at Maine East High School, she increased her community’s knowledge of this issue and collected 58 pounds of batteries to recycle.

The Schuler Scholar Program is pleased to recognize these Scholars for their impressive projects, commitment to environmental stewardship, and outstanding community engagement. Read their individual reflections below to learn more about their projects. For more information on the Center for Conservation Leadership, visit the CCL blog.

Karla P. Figueroa – Round Lake High School, Class of 2015

My stewardship project, called “Kids in Conservation”, focused on educating children ages 6- 12 about the importance of recycling, energy efficiency, conservation, and other environmental issues. I chose to educate the next generation about the importance of our environment so that one day they may aid one another in taking care of our majestic Earth.

Each lesson plan required extensive research on a certain topic. For each program I liked to plan an activity that mirrored the information provided to them. My lesson plans included hands-on activities to better impact the children. I created these crafts in order to make it both a fun and an educational experience for the kids. I was lucky enough to get one program at the Round Lake Area Public Library, five programs with the Lake Villa District Public Library, and be part of the nature hike group at the Pringle Nature Center.    

Through my stewardship project I was able to contribute to my own community and the communities surrounding it with the help of a mentor. Thanks to the Center for Conservation Leadership program I am now able to give a speech without being overwhelmed with nerves. I now know that I have made a difference in the environment by spreading the word of its importance to future generations.

Alyanna Villapando 
 Maine East High School, Class of 2015

My project was about how harmful batteries are for the environment and what we as consumers can do in order to alleviate the effects of this widespread issue. After a brainstorming session, I figured that the best way that I could address this issue was to spread knowledge about it and give others a simple way to act. I did this by placing a few recycling bins in Maine East High School, putting up informative posters, and setting a few announcements on the PA regarding this project.

After a few weeks, the plan started working! I was getting hundreds of batteries each month, big and small, and had to empty out my home-made bin twice to keep it from tearing apart. After six months of collection, I was left with 58 pounds of batteries, full of a host of toxic metals like mercury, cadmium, and lead about to be put to better use again. It was just a matter of bringing them to Home Depot to recycle. Overall, I think my project has enabled others to make better choices for themselves and the environment.

Kala Juett – Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, Class of 2016

For my Stewardship Project, I installed newer and more appropriate recycling bins in classrooms at CRSM. I also built environmental awareness at our school through announcements. Every Monday we have a thing called Monday assembly, and it was announced to the students that there would be new bins in the school. This was to help reduce my school's carbon footprint, which was not large, but at my school we always try to do better. We strive for greatness!

The recycling bins are now in full use and we have been collecting larger amounts of recyclables. People now have a better understanding of the harmful effects that can happen if we don't take these small steps to make it better. Most people are open to participating in the field trips the Ecological (Eco) Club takes to different places, where they do cleanups, take classes, or go to museums. I myself have made a big impact on my environment by doing something very small that led to a domino effect. Think of what we all can do!


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