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High school students learn sustainability at Hofstra

Westbury and Hempstead high school students presented four

Westbury and Hempstead high school students presented four public service announcements on environmental sustainability at Hofstra University to end Project GRAD Summer Institute, a four-week program that provided them with instruction on environmental studies, biology and film. (August 2, 2012) (Credit: Brittany Wait)

While on a tour, Carlos Ibarra Cruz found a pond on Hofstra University’s campus, which sparked an idea. He would use it on camera to illustrate his group’s message on how community gardens and natural bodies of water can benefit the environment.

“I learned that gardening can help the environment,” said Cruz, 15, a rising junior at Westbury High School. “If you plant a flower or grow vegetables, you can reduce the space to litter and take a stand to make a difference.”

He was among 50 high school students that participated in the ninth annual Project GRAD Summer Institute at Hofstra University, themed “STEMulating Sustainability,” which began on July 7.

After completing the institute — a four-week program that offered the students daily instruction in environmental studies, biology and film — students presented four public service announcements they created on environmental sustainability Thursday.

The students, ages 14 to 16, presented the announcements at the university in video form, providing their ideas on improving and sustaining natural resources in their environment.

Another student, Jailene Martinez, worked behind the camera, shooting her group’s announcement on composting, explaining the importance of recycling.

“It’s good to try new things because you never know where it will lead you,” said Martinez, 15, a rising sophomore at Hempstead High School. “This program taught me that there are so many things that can be harmful to our environment.”

Project GRAD is a Houston-based nonprofit that aims to provide a high quality of public education to students from economically disadvantaged communities across the country in order to increase high school graduation rates and prepare them for college.

Sybil Mimy-Johnson, executive director of Project GRAD Long Island, said the summer institute is a crucial element to the program, providing students with a taste of higher education studies at a local university with courses instructed by college faculty.

“This program is for those students from communities that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do this,” Mimy-Johnson said. “The idea is to empower them with information so when they do apply for college they know how to handle the process.”

Nigel Hooper, an instructor at the Long Island Film Academy in Farmingdale, taught students how to shoot and edit video and speak on camera.

“It was a crash course in filmmaking, hitting them on the head with acting, using the technology, lighting and editing video,” said Hooper, of Brooklyn. “They did a phenomenal job going into it with without any experience and getting it done. They were brave.”

Kirk Kordeleski, president and CEO of Bethpage Federal Credit Union, said Project GRAD was brought to Long Island in 2001 after debuting in 1988 in Houston as Project GRAD USA.

“It was first offered to the Roosevelt School District and now includes only Westbury and Hempstead school districts,” said Kordeleski, chairman of Project GRAD Long Island. “We work with underserved districts and it not only serves as a great learning experience and challenges them over the summer, but it allows them to become more acclimated with college.”

The collage of the student’s announcements can be found at here.

Tags: Hempstead , Hofstra , Project GRAD

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