4th annual Hawaii Youth Sustainability Challenge project-grant program launched

It offers funding, training and mentoring for students to create environmental solutions

Oahu students from public, private and charter schools islandwide wanting to help their schools or communities go green now have a chance to earn funding to back their big ideas. Conservation and education nonprofit Kupu, in partnership with Kokua Hawaii Foundation is launching its fourth annual Hawaii Youth Sustainability Challenge project-grant program, which supports student-led environmental initiatives.

Applications are now open and due Oct. 19, 2019. Students in grades 6-12 from public, private, and charter schools statewide are encouraged to apply.

“We are so excited to host another Hawaii Youth Sustainability Challenge,” said Kupu CEO John Leong. “Not only is this a great experience for Hawaii’s next generation of ecopreneurs and eco-engineers, but it’s also a win for the community at large. We have seen so many students generate innovative and effective projects that address pressing environmental issues. We can’t wait to see what our future leaders come up with this year.”

Last school year, the program provided $19,015 worth of project-grants to 29 teams across 23 schools. Oahu students from a variety of schools and regions were able to participate, for example:

  • Students at Hawaii Tech Academy, a public charter school, created a fully autonomous off-grid aquaponics system. They identified an issue with a dated aquaponics system within their school, realized that because of human neglect the system had gone into disrepair. So as a solution, they decided to integrate technology into the existing system. They used two microcontrollers and equipped the system with sensors. This project managed to reduce the system’s dependency on human intervention, through automating the feeding of livestock, cycling of the water pumps, as well as creating a system in which information was sent via email to the participants if the pH scale or temperatures were outside their set parameters. Teacher Mark Buelow said, “This aquaponics project has had a great impact on our school and our relationship with Leeward Community College (LCC). Through this project, future students will be able to learn about: fluid mechanics, aquaponics, solar energy, electronics, coding, sustainability and more. The biggest highlight of this project was the high level of collaboration the students engaged in. Not only did they work well together but they collaborated with college professors, solar company owners, building managers, teachers, and school administrators.”
  • Students from another public charter school, SEEQS, created a small community garden on campus with 12 garden beds and drip irrigation for watering. Teacher Zoe Ingerson loved seeing the teamwork develop between her students, and how natural leaders emerged. “Seeing them divide up their tasks and come up with concrete plans gave me hope for the future, that our young people are willing to put in the time and effort to make lasting change,” she said.

Individual projects will be awarded up to $1,000 based on scope and need. Project proposals can be submitted individually, in groups, or involve collaboration between two or more schools. Each team must include one teacher adviser and will also be paired with an outside mentor to support project development. Also, for the first time, Kupu and Kokua Hawaii Foundation will provide additional opportunities to help students develop projects and receive additional training as they work to implement their ideas.

Grant recipients will be selected in late fall, and projects will commence in January. Projects are required to be implemented and completed by the end of the 2019–20 school year.

"Last year’s Hawaii Youth Sustainability Challenge projects were impactful not just on the students that participated in them, but also the schools and communities that their projects reached,” said Kokua Hawaii Foundation Executive Director Natalie McKinney. “Kokua Hawaii Foundation is excited for a new batch of projects spearheaded by youth leaders who care about and want to make positive impacts on our environment.”

The Hawaii Youth Sustainability Challenge is a legacy initiative of the 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress, where it was first announced by first lady Mrs. Dawn Amano-Ige with the goal of inspiring youth to engage with the environment through action, advocacy, and education. The 2019–20 Hawaii Youth Sustainability Challenge is produced by Kupu and Kokua Hawaii Foundation with support from Kamehameha Schools and other community organizations.   

Hawaii Youth Sustainability Challenge has been supported by Kamehameha Schools, Kaiser Permanent, Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation, HouseMart, Finance Factors, eWorldES, Turtle Bay Foundation, Pulama Lanai, FedEx Cares, and the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation.

Click here for more information on the Hawaii Youth Sustainability Challenge.

Featured photo courtesy Kupu.

Author: Keoki Kerr