MHS Environmental Club Works with Sustainable Jersey Schools to Earn Bronze-level Award
By Divya Bharadwaj | Posted October 12, 2023
Montgomery High School’s Environmental Club is working with a state nonprofit organization to preserve nature on school grounds while fighting climate change.
From left: Environmental Club board members Gloria Yao, Saanvi Pothala, Arun Mallela, and Gamana Gogineni at the last Enviro Club meeting for the 2022-2023 school year.
Club members have begun the process of getting Montgomery High School certified with Sustainable Jersey’s school program. Sustainable Jersey (SJ) is a coalition of municipalities all throughout the state of New Jersey that work together to accomplish their goals of becoming environmentally and socially sustainable.
Sustainable Jersey for Schools is a certification program for K-12 public schools in New Jersey. The initiative provides tools, training, and financial incentives to support and recognize schools that pursue a balanced sustainability program. It was launched in fall 2014 at a New Jersey School Boards Association Workshop in Atlantic City. Within a year, 59 schools were certified, and by 2021, a thousand schools were participating in the program.
Public schools in New Jersey can get registered and complete different actions to achieve points towards two levels of certification for the school: Bronze and Silver. So far, schools districts such as Somerville Public School district, Franklin Township School District, and many others in Somerset County have schools that are already participating and working towards certification.
Montgomery High School, which was registered with SJ in 2017, is working towards the bronze certification. Bronze certification means a school has made a commitment to sustainability and has succeeded in implementing significant first steps. There are many categories of tasks that range from five to 20 points. These include such things as: creating a thriving school garden; having community and school outreach; and requiring the school to use green cleaning supplies. It could also include planting more trees on the school grounds; eliminating or reducing impervious surfaces on parking lots, access roads, and paved playgrounds; or hosting a green fair (a community-wide event that educates and encourages people of all ages to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.)
The Environmental Club board met with JoAnna Contarino- who, works with Sustainable Jersey Schools, shortly after the 2022-23 academic year ended. During the meeting, she summarized the process of certification and its importance. She explained that Montgomery High School is eligible for grants that can be used for accomplishing their environmental goals. One such grant was used in 2017 towards creating new water- bottle filling stations around the school. The MHS science department head Mr. Sullivan and Enviro Club advisor and Science teacher Mr. Runion oversaw this initiative.
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Arun Mallela, a junior at MHS and secretary of Environmental club says the program is important because “it provides guidance, support, and recognition to schools that implement steps to be sustainable in their operations.” He also emphasized the importance of students’ roles in leading this initiative by explaining that this opportunity lets schools be “proactive in preparing students for the challenges they will face in the future.” Mallela stressed that environmental and social issues require “broad-based sustainability literacy to ensure that young people are equipped to recognize to critical issues now and in their chosen careers.”
The Environmental Club is working with club advisor Mr. Runion and MHS Science Department head Mr. Sullivan, to help oversee progress. It also is actively working on creating a green team of interested students, parents, school staff, and other Montgomery residents to track points and allocate resources and funds to achieve these goals.
The Enviro Club board asks that anyone who is interested in being a part of this team to please reach out to them through their email: email@example.com.