Student Projects Make Local Impacts
Long Branch, NJ – On May 20th, ten Monmouth County high school students graduated from Clean Ocean Action’s Student Environmental Advocates and Leaders (SEAL) program, a new program that aims to empower students to become mindful and resourceful leaders, with a focus on local, current environmental issues. The program is made possible by grant funding from Impact 100 Jersey Coast.
While the entire academic year program was held virtually, Clean Ocean Action hosted a socially-distanced, outdoor graduation ceremony at the organization’s Long Branch office to celebrate the Inaugural SEAL Class 2020 – 2021. SEAL students and their friends and family gathered for the ceremony, marking the first time meeting in-person since the fully virtual program began in October 2020. Each students’ community project was announced and applauded as they were awarded their personalized Certificate of Participation for completing a project that aimed to solve a community environmental problem.
Some members of the Inaugural SEAL Class 2020-2021 at the May 20 Graduation Ceremony
Left to Right: Olivia Bonforte, Orianna Nolan, Isabella Taborda, Sarah Taylor, Maya Burns,
Chelsea Delalla, William Franznick, Jackie Rogers (Some SEAL Graduates not pictured) (COA Photograph)
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“From building and donating a rain barrel to slow the flow of polluted stormwater runoff, to establishing and planting a community garden, to designing and placing signs at local beaches to educate people about litter impacts – these SEAL students made a splash and went above and beyond their SEAL duties, and it shows,” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director, Clean Ocean Action. “Our communities are for the better due to their hard work, determination, and passion for a cleaner future. We are immensely thankful to the incredible women at Impact 100 Jersey Coast for making this program possible.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Clean Ocean Action had to pivot the program to be fully virtual. As such the anticipated field trips to see real-life environmental issues in actions, such as wastewater treatment plant, recycling facility, or legislative offices, were cancelled, and experts in environmental issues in various communities and fields were brought to the SEAL students during their bi-weekly Zoom SEAL sessions. Guest speakers included: Brian Thompson from NBC News 4 New York, Atlantic Highlands Councilwoman and member of Impact 100 Jersey Coast Lori Hohenleitner, and local surfer, advocate, and long-time COA volunteer Tyler Thompson. Community and organization members also served as advisory roles to students in this first SEAL year: Laura McBride (Deal Lake Watershed Alliance), Greg Remaud (NY/NJ Baykeeper), Joe Reynolds (Save Coastal Wildlife), David Hussey (Red Bank Regional High School), Clare Ng (Marine Academy of Science & Technology.)
The SEAL logo was created and designed by Ty Decker of Current Media Co.
“We are so grateful to host an exciting close to what began as an unprecedented inaugural SEAL year!” said Kristen Grazioso, SEAL and Education Coordinator, Clean Ocean Action. “This fabulous environmental advocacy could not have been possible without the funding from the incredible women at Impact 100 Jersey Coast, or the support from the many friends, family members, experts, and guest speakers. We truly are in awe of the students’ accomplishments, which give me hope for the future.”
To close the ceremony and “SEAL” the deal, students chose between an assortment of awards for the point-based achievements they earned throughout the program. Awards included various gift cards, vintage COA apparel, reusable utensil sets, metal straws, cloth bags, beach towels, and more.
Clean Ocean Action is now recruiting eligible high school students who are interested in participating in the program for the upcoming academic year. Students from the following schools are eligible: Asbury Park, Raritan, Henry Hudson, Keansburg, Keyport, Long Branch, Neptune, Monmouth Regional, Middletown North, Red Bank Regional, Ocean Township. Interested students should go to “Education Programs” at www.CleanOceanAction.org and complete the SEAL Student Interest Form.
SEAL Projects 2020-2021:
- Chelsea Delalla, Ocean Township, educating elementary School students about the importance of planting trees and gardening.
- Isabella Taborda, Eatontown, engaging students in recycling by creating and supplying elementary school teachers with a pre-recorded informative Earth Day video featuring a craft made from recyclable materials.
- Jackie Rogers, Little Silver, helping local businesses make an eco-friendly switch by educating and informing about the best alternatives.
- Maya Burns, Keyport, reducing polluted stormwater runoff by planting Sugar Maple trees.
- Olivia Bonforte, Highlands, helping to alleviate the amount of polluted stormwater runoff by creating a rain barrel and donating it to a local community.
- Olivia Fair, Highlands, beautifying the local First Aid Building while positively contributing to local pollinator species by planting and revamping the area with herbs and pollinator flowers.
- Orianna Nolan, Highlands, lessening the amount of litter in Highlands with the creation of the environmental group “Highlands Helpers 07732.”
- Sarah Taylor, Ocean Township, help lessen the amount of polluted stormwater runoff by hosting a virtual session called “Hydroponics Heals” to teach local middle schoolers how to create their own hydroponics system.
- Thomas Baron, Middletown, reduce the amount of litter on local beaches by designing and posting “No Littering” signs.
- William Franznick, Middletown, educating younger generations on local environmental issues and topics by creating curriculum-based environmental lesson plans and resources to provide teachers.
The SEAL program, which was funded generously by Impact 100 Jersey Coast as their first environmental grant, offers eligible high school students a unique leadership learning experience focused on local environmental issues. SEAL students collaborate with peers across Monmouth County through bi-monthly virtual group training sessions to learn the basics of community grassroots activism and advocacy, and how it can be achieved in their own schools’ communities. Topics presented in the training sessions, featuring experts in that field, include, but are not limited to civics and the voting system, environmental justice, water quality, environmental careers, recycling crisis, and watershed mindfulness. Students make connections from the lessons to their local communities and learn to make real change through problem-based learning. In addition, guest speakers, including elected officials, advocates, and activists will speak to the students to discuss successful strategies and campaigns to add real world context to the learning. To add a healthy bit of competition, Clean Ocean Action (COA) will use a point-based system to award students for their activities, leadership, collaboration, cohesiveness, stewardship and campaigns. Importantly, SEALs will help pass on their leadership and success to the community through presentations and engagement to middle schoolers and town councils. Interested high school students from eligible schools (listed earlier) should go to “Education Programs” at www.CleanOceanAction.org, contact Kristen Grazioso at 732-872-0111 or [email protected], and complete the SEAL Student Interest Form.