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June 11, 2015

Green Focus Wraps Up It’s Second Year

Here's a quick look at some highlights from Green Focus 2014/2015.

Green Focus has concluded its second year as the California Center for Civic Participations newest program!  Youth heard from influential policy makers, environmental allies in the business community and learned about technology to help improve our overall sustainability.

We are proud to announce that Green Focus has concluded its second year as the California Center for Civic Participation's newest program!  This year Green Focus was expanded from one, to three convenings, which gave the students a more complete understanding of California’s environmental issues and the ever-growing green job sector.

We had representation from several schools throughout the Sacramento area.  Participants from grades nine through twelve from Grant Union, Highlands, Natomas, Inderkum and Pleasant Grove High Schools attended the program, some for a second time.  Next year we will invite these same schools to participate, while also reaching out to other schools in the region to attend for the first time.

As we reflect on the events that took place over the past seven months, we see just how much our youth learned using our hands-on and holistic approach.  To start off the year we introduced them to state government and a few of California’s landmark environmental laws.  As we all know, getting informed about different state policies can be challenging at times.  With so many laws, how do you know where to begin?  We chose three very important policies that we felt captured the issues in our political forefront today. The three main policies we focused on were AB 32: The Global Warming Solutions Act, Prop 1: The Water Bond and The Groundwater Management Package.  In order to more easily break these policies down, we trained the youth to utilize a general “Policy Framework” which they used to analyze issues, both in Green Focus and beyond.  Our goal was to give them basic steps to help them understand even the most complex issues.  We found that after they reviewed this framework and used it in a number of different ways, they were able to see laws and policies more clearly and were able to take a position after careful and thorough analysis.  Using this Policy Framework gave them a basis from which to work from for the rest of the program year.

Another memorable activity was our visit to the Turner Construction offices to hear a presentation about how they are working with community leaders to make the new Entertainment and Sports Complex (King’s arena) LEED Certified and more environmentally sustainable.  Turner put on an enlightening presentation exploring different features of the arena that are helping to reduce carbon emissions and waste while using more renewable resources.  The youth got a glimpse of what goes into an energy efficient arena by two of their lead engineers.  They also walked us to the arena site, and although it was still in its beginning phases, we were able to see the progress of this large sustainable project right here in our very own community.   Turner concluded the visit by sharing various careers and jobs available for people interested in the field of green construction.  Overall this activity was a great inside look at how Sacramento and the sports and business community are working together to make a positive impact on our environment, while providing a state of the art entertainment venue for its residents and fans.

Aside from the construction and buildings aspect of “going green”, we took a look at transportation.  Nissan was kind enough to provide us with two hybrid and electric vehicle engineers to visit us at our first conference to explore energy efficiency in cars.  Our engineers reviewed the basic technology used in a variety of vehicles and explained how investing in these types of cars can help decrease the negative effects of climate change.  Not only did they present a wide range of information about their vehicles, they also brought a couple with them!  Youth were able to take a look inside and under the hood of an electronic and hydrogen cell vehicle.  This aspect of the presentation helped bring the information they presented full circle.  Many of our youth aren’t of driving age yet, so this experience proved to be very exciting and new for them.  Thank you, Nissan!

 Last but not least, we had our final meal of the year at a fantastic local restaurant called Hot Italian.  It’s a great place to eat pizza, enjoy tasty gelato and watch sports while relaxing in a modern atmosphere.  What many people don’t know, is that Hot Italian is Silver LEED Certified.  This means that the U.S. Green Buildings Council certified the restaurant using their points system.  Points are based on whether a building is saving money and resources and/or has a positive impact on the health of its occupants while promoting renewable, clean energy.  The owner, Andrea Lepore, gave us a tour of the restaurant pointing out all of the features of the building that reflect this criteria.  Some of the features she referred to were the tables and chairs made of recycled bicycle parts and their state of the art food composting bin located on site.  The overall experience proved to be very educational and exposed the youth to yet another example of LEED Certification in the local community.  The youth were able to see how different business sectors are embracing the LEED Certification program, making Sacramento a leader in green building practices. 

Overall this was a year of firsts.  We successfully engaged more youth than last year and with two additional convenings, we were able to fit more activities into the program for a more complete experience.  With a more robust program we were able to add a few college and career building activities and workshops into the curriculum.  For example, youth explored the concept of informational interviews through an in-depth training.  They were able to see how this process can be used to answer questions about specific jobs of interest and how it can help improve their professional one-on-one communication skills.  After the training, students were asked to conduct an informational interview independently.  After debriefing about their experience we found that the youth gained a great deal of insight, not only about their dream jobs, but also about their interpersonal skills and their own possible career path.  We plan on implementing independent activities like this in the coming years. 

This year with the ability to incorporate more college building skills, we took every opportunity to let the youth do some public speaking.  Not many of us enjoy public speaking, but everyone knows there’s plenty of it in college and beyond! In all three conferences the youth were given several opportunities to debrief in front of the entire group in order to sharpen their skills.  Over time, we noticed that the students became much more comfortable with themselves and their ability to convey their message with confidence. We plan to continue sharpening these critical skills over the coming years with new and creative methods, to help our youth reach their full potential.

As we reflect on the year we are reminded of all the businesses, organizations and individuals that contributed their time and expertise to Green Focus, because without them we wouldn’t be able to bring these experiences to life.  Thank you for all your time and effort!  We appreciate all you do!  Here is a list of all our contributors from these past two years:

Nissan
California Department of Water Resources
The Air Resources Board
Turner Construction
The UC Davis Western Cooling Facility
Soil Born Farms
KW Engineering
Green 360
The Natural Resources Agency
The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
Hot Italian
SMUD
Beutler Corporation
California Energy Commission
Californians Against Waste
California League of Conservation Voters
Paragary Group/Hockfarm Craft & Provisions
Department of Fish and Wildlife
Assembly Republican Office of Policy

This year definitely set the tone for the future of Green Focus.  With an expanded program we were able to provide students with a more well-rounded and complete learning experience.  Not only are the students learning more, but they are now more likely to apply their skills and knowledge to their everyday lives at home, in school and in their communities.  Green Focus was able to provide this diverse group of students with a unique look at their surrounding environment that they wouldn’t be able to get inside a classroom.  As we look forward, we plan on continuing with this momentum so that youth can more easily adapt to our ever changing world and help foster awareness of these issues with their friends and family.  As the great Aristotle once said, “Good habits formed at youth make all the difference”.