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First Lady Tammy Murphy honors HVCHS’ Youth Environmental Society for first place in climate challenge

Hopewell Valley Central High School’s Youth Environmental Society won first place in the New Jersey Student Climate Challenge.

First Lady Tammy Murphy honored the team with a $2,500 grant for their submission on June 8, according to a press release on June 27.

The students’ winning entry documented their process of researching and developing a proposal for climate action that they presented to the Hopewell Valley Regional School (HVRSD) District Board of Education (BOE) in March 2022.

The team included Hopewell Valley Central High School, HVCHS, seniors Kevin Amon, Akhansha Arvind, Annika Ault, Nadia Chasalow, Angelina Graf, Daphine Newton and Abigail Rise.

Their advisors included HVCHS teacher Carolyn McGrath and Scott Brettell, HVRSD director of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Atlantic City Electric, Exelon, the Drumthwacket Foundation, and Sustainable Jersey administered the New Jersey Student Climate Challenge, which included entries from schools across the state.

The Youth Environmental Society students worked for several months to prepare their proposal, which included consultation with climate experts from Rutgers University, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the Watershed Institute.

The students consolidated their findings into a 28-page document that they shared along with a summary presentation to the BOE.

The proposal included the request that the HVSD commit to creating a formal climate action plan that would address areas including education, facilities and energy, transportation, education, food and waste, and resilience. Within those areas, students generated recommended actions that would result in significantly reduced environmental impacts for the school district over the next decade, according to the press release.

For the New Jersey Student Climate Challenge, team member Kevin Amon edited together interviews of the Youth Environmental Society student leaders with footage of them preparing and presenting their proposal to the BOE. The video was then offered, along with the written proposal and presentation, as the students’ official entry to the challenge.

“I applaud our students’ efforts and unwavering commitment to ensuring that the district is moving forward in our sustainability mission and goals. We pledge to work with our students and the greater community and to take steps toward doing our part in protecting our planet,” HVRSD Superintendent, Dr. Rosetta Treece said.

Abigail, a student leader in the Youth Environmental Society, said the first-place award has been one of the greatest accomplishments as she graduates from high school.

“I am honored to have been able to participate in this challenge, and I am confident that our prize-winning project will have lasting effects on our school district, our greater community, and even the state of New Jersey as a whole,” she said.

HVCHS Teacher Carolyn McGrath said the Youth Environmental Society hopes Hopewell can become a leader in the area of climate action, providing a model for other schools in the state and the region as they work together to respond to the pressing issue of climate change.

“We were honored to be recognized for this work by First Lady Tammy Murphy, who has been an outspoken advocate for climate change education in New Jersey. As an advisor to the students who worked on this project, it was inspiring for me to see the powerful impact that young people can have when they come together to advocate for positive change,” she said.

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