National Green Ribbon Award to Weston High

In May, we had the pleasure of reporting that Weston High School was selected as a national Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Two weeks ago, student leaders of the school's Green Team, Collin Socha and Graham Fay, formally accepted the Green Ribbon award in Washington. They were accompanied by assistant principal Matthew Filip and their faculty advisor, Michael Aitkenhead.

The Green Ribbon is awarded to a select number of schools that encourage education on the environment, promote sustainability, actively work to improve the wellness of students and staff, and initiate programs to reduce the environmental impact of consumed products and resources.

It was only last December that Weston High's Green Team officially became a Connecticut Green LEAF participant. At that time, the state’s Green LEAF leader, Laurel Kohl, told us she hoped Weston would compete for the national Green Ribbon award and described how challenging it is to win.

Ms. Kohl said the program requires gaining commitment from students, teachers, administrators, and the community. She emphasized that a key part of building a winning program is taking steps to keep it going once student leaders move on.

Very few schools win the Green Ribbon. This year, only 25 in the entire country earned it. Weston High was the only one in Connecticut.

Why They Won

We could see in December that the team intended to accept the challenge and work hard. We didn't realize how quickly they would succeed.

Here is what we learned from the Department of Education about what in Weston High School's Green efforts impressed them.

They were pleased to see that the school is dedicated to educating students about sustainability and the environment. They liked that Weston High has made the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals part of the curriculum. They liked that the school advertises its commitment with murals and posters in classrooms and hallways.

The operation of the school and the entire campus was commended for being retrofitted with LED lighting and motion sensors. The DOE was impressed that the school actively recycles plastic, uses eco-friendly cleaning products, uses action tools supplied by the EPA, and has reduced carbon dioxide emissions in its bus system.

The DOE called out the school's garden, water-bottle filling stations, and outdoor courtyards that provide natural lighting. In terms of building for the future, the Department was impressed by new initiatives for recycling everything from textiles to ink cartridges and batteries, planning for electric vehicle charging stations, and making a positive contribution to protecting the pollinator pathway.

These are impressive results. They speak well for the students, teachers, and administrators who drive the school's Green program. They also speak well for Weston as a community.

In the photo, from left to right: Stuart Levenbach of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Mr. Filip, Mr. Fay, Mr. Socha, Mr. Aitkenhead, Abby Peklo of Connecticut's Green LEAF program, Evelyn Kubik, an environmental educator with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and Frank Brogan, Assistant U.S. Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education.

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