Hughes Middle School is one of five California finalists for the national Green Ribbon Award, which recognizes schools for reducing environmental impact on their communities, promoting healthy school environments, and offering high-quality environmental education.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced this year’s five nominees during a recent ceremony at Hughes.
"These outstanding schools are proof that every school day can provide teachable moments about protecting and sustaining our environment," Torlakson said. "As a science teacher myself, I'm thrilled to see how these schools are taking what we know about good environmental practices and putting them to work right on campus."
The honor marks the second year in a row that a Long Beach school has been nominated for the national honor by the state superintendent. Last year, Longfellow Elementary School, located adjacent to Hughes, was nominated by the state superintendent and went on to win the top national honor in the inaugural year of the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon program.
Hughes earned a U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star 2012 award for energy conservation, with a perfect score of 100. Since 2007, students have built 12 themed gardens and planted more than 40 campus trees. New landscaping on the campus perimeter includes plants known to capture particulate matter, in an effort to improve air quality for the school and its neighbors.
Hughes' Student Green Team publishes the Green Gazette, a schoolwide eco-newsletter that includes healthy recipes using produce from the school gardens. Hughes partners with a local bike store to host monthly bike repair and safety workshops on campus, encouraging ridership across the community.
"Being a finalist for the national Green Ribbon School Award has been made possible because of the dedication of our amazing Green Team parent volunteers, teachers, staff and most importantly our students who have demonstrated their commitment to being stewards of their environment,” Hughes Principal Sally Gregory said. “They are forging a legacy to be environmentally and ecologically responsible, contributing to a healthy school environment and world."
This year’s four other California honorees, who will compete for the national honor, include Journey School of Aliso Viejo, Redding School of the Arts, Prospect Sierra School of El Cerrito, and Ventura County's Oak Park Unified School District.
Participating states can nominate one district and up to four schools, one of which must be a private school. One must also be a school with at least 40 percent of its students eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch.
California's participation in the program is a key recommendation of Torlakson's Schools of the Future Task Force. The group brought together educational, environmental, business and community leaders to encourage the use of renewable energy sources and other sound environmental practices at schools across California.
The California Department of Education reviewed applications for the program based upon schools' demonstrated progress toward reaching the goals of the U.S. Department of Education's three Green Ribbon School Pillars: reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of schools, students and staff; and providing effective environmental and sustainability literacy, incorporating science, technology, engineering, and math education, civic skills, and green career pathways.
Winners of the national honor are expected to be named on April 22, which is Earth Day.
Learn more at cde.ca.gov.