CHS Pioneering First-Of-Its-Kind Initiative While Linking Learning With Sustainability

We need a new environmental consciousness on a global basis. To do this, we need to educate people.
—Mikhail Gorbachev

We are thrilled to announce really exciting news!

Colchester High School recently won a $2,000 Vermont VPA Service Learning and Leadership Project grant offered through a partnership with the Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA) and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is the primary funding source for the award. It it a federal program focusing upon programs aimed at addressing human needs as well as issues concerning education, the environment, and poverty. Its mission, according to its website, is “to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.”

CHS won the award for its plan—which is spearheaded by Humanities teacher Sean MacArdle and sophomore Christopher Prado—to design student learning opportunities about sustainability by creating and pioneering a sustainability-oriented student organization.

The project is called Net Impact High School, and it is modeled after the nonprofit organization Net Impact. Net Impact, founded in 1993 under a different name, champions social and environmental causes through a vast network of dedicated college students and professionals consisting of more than 280 chapters around the world. CHS’s Net Impact High School will be the nation’s first high school chapter, and its mission has far-reaching—perhaps even national—potential.

The program was initially devised partly in response to the identified lack of sustainability-related learning opportunities currently available to CHS students and partly in an effort to conserve and protect Vermont’s beauty and resources. By trailblazing this important organization, CHS students will have the opportunity to not only positively impact our community’s efforts to manage social and environmental challenges but will also grow as better agents of social and environmental responsibility. One of the anticipated outcomes of this project is the increased incorporation of sustainable practices into CHS’s culture and climate. And, from an academic and career-oriented perspective, it will further facilitate exposure to a number of growing sustainability-focused employment fields, thereby linking student learning and sustainability-related efforts to their futures while simultaneously enhancing the participating students’ leadership skills.

In addition to the monetary award through the VPA, the program has considerable support from CHS’s student body and faculty as well as from Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR). Some of VBSR’s green technologies and practices could be implemented into Colchester High School, and a number of area professionals in affiliation with the organization are willing to lend their expertise and experience to the Net Impact High School initiative.

This project is an all-around win-win, and its anticipated benefits—both immediate and long-term—are invigorating. Facilitating an increased emphasis on sustainability education—and providing opportunities for leadership development and career preparation in the process—is an excellent example of the forward thinking that the district works hard to promote and encourage. And that CHS’s Net Impact High School will be the first ever of its kind is truly exciting and inspiring.

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