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Central Okanagan students create sustainable projects

Annual Sustainable Development Challenge held in Kelowna
Meet one of this years teams: Bins for Humanity. (Facebook)

The Mary Irwin Theatre stage marked the culmination of a journey by 17 groups of students pitching their ideas in the Sustainable Development Challenge Grand Finale held last Thursday.

Each student team presented innovative solutions reflecting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015, appearing before a group of finale judges called together to determine the winning recipient of up to a $5,000 investment from Beem Credit Union in their ideas.

The Development Challenge calls for solution ideas, partnered with local charities and social enterprises, working towards issues such as clean water, renewable energy, healthy inclusive communities and zero waste.

Tahlia Rodriguez, a Grade 12 student at Kelowna Christian School, was part of the five-student team who opened a cantina at their school with the idea of the profits being used to provide a safe space for troubled teenagers at The Foundry in Kelowna.

She said starting the cantina meant creating a business model from scratch, which she hopes other students will continue to operate in the years ahead.

She said the issue of students facing mental health issues is one she has a passion for addressing, the idea of a ‘safe space’ intended to help address what she says is a significant issue among her peer group today.

“The space is one way to provide a safe place to go, where teenagers won’t feel they are alone in dealing with mental health issues,” she said.

Jessika Durose, now attending UBC Okanagan, was a participant in last year’s event as a student at Immaculata School and returned this year to volunteer as an MC for Thursday’s finale.

Her team’s project was helping to expand a sustainable organic farming initiative in the African country of Liberia, which continues today to expand.

Last year’s award-winning ideas included organizing numerous community planting days focused on ‘rewilding’ with plants native to the Okanagan climate, and another to operate a thrift store enterprise at Ecole Kelowna Secondary School with the goals to reduce waste, support poverty reduction and raise money.

As Durose’s team did, all the participating groups get some class time to work on their projects, but ultimately much of the work is invested outside of school.

“I had never worked so hard as I did on our project,” she recounted.

“It felt like we were making a real impact.”

The winning entry this year of the $5,000 award was “Bins for Humanity,” a project led by three Grade 12 students Amadeo Mancuso, Benn Jethro Sia and Lion Alaji from Immaculata Regional High School in Kelowna.

The trio already has commitments from several Kelowna apartment buildings and will partner with MCC Thrift Stores to implement their project, which addresses both textile waste and poverty in our community.

Earning the Holar Mill Site Award for second place was a goat livelihood project in Uganda from William Koopman, Jackson Gerber, Nick Wessels and Jordan Iredia, students at Kelowna Christian School.

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Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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