Students from VUSD will present proposals

2022 finalists in the annual EECCOA Challenge Awards Ceremony.

For the 8th year in a row, students from Ventura Unified School District will present proposals to reduce their schools’ environmental footprint and receive awards.

On Monday, May 22nd, the MERITO Foundation and Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) will host the 8th annual EECCOA Challenge Awards Ceremony. At this event, 7th-12th-grade student finalists will present their environmental business proposals to either reduce the carbon footprint of their school or advocate for the removal of the relic Matilija Dam from the Ventura River. The primary sponsor of this year’s EECCOA Challenge Awards Ceremony is Clean Power Alliance.

For the EECCOA Challenge, students had the option of choosing a project theme from 4 categories: water conservation, energy efficiency, or waste reduction at their school campuses, or outreach about the ecological benefits of dam removal. This multi-disciplinary competition is an opportunity for our youth to combine environmental science with business ideas, and practice environmental entrepreneurship. School administrators also benefit by hearing from students on how to improve their schools’ infrastructure and reduce utility costs.

The event will take place at the Poinsettia Pavilion, in Ventura, from 4 -7 pm. The keynote speaker for the event is Anna Cummins, Co-Founder & Executive Director of 5 Gyres, a leading organization in the global movement against plastic pollution, with more than 10 years of expertise in scientific research, engagement, and education. Representatives from the offices of Senator Monique Limón, and Congressman Salud Carbajal will be present to congratulate the students.

There are currently 86 teams competing in the EECCOA Challenge, from students attending Buena High School, Ventura High School, Foothill Technology High School, Anacapa Middle School, Balboa Middle School, or DATA Middle School. After two rounds of judging, the top 16 finalists will present their projects in person before judges at the May 22nd event. After presentations, the MERITO Foundation and VUSD will award cash or in-kind prizes for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Honorable Mention in each category. All participating students have been immersed since September 2022 in MERITO Foundation’s Ventura Action Network (V-RAN) Program or “From the Avenue to Channel Islands (ATCI) program in partnership with the VUSD.

The V-RAN program provides professional development, field training, and curriculum to science teachers, as well as hands-on field experience for ~700 middle and high school students throughout the Ventura River watershed and coast. Through the ATCI program, 660 students from DATA Middle School enjoy outdoor experiences at the Ventura River, State Beaches, and the Channel Islands. In addition to environmental education, students also participate in biking, hiking, kayaking, camping, snorkeling, sailing, and surfing, and learn leadership skills that they put into practice at outdoor community events.

Sponsors for the V-RAN Program include NOAA B-WET Grant, Ventura Water, and UC Davis Center for Community and Citizen Science. The ‘From the Avenue to the Channel Islands’ (ATCI) Program of the MERITO Foundation is funded by the Outdoors Equity Grant, created through AB 209 and administered by California State Parks, Office of Grants, and Local Services.

The MERITO Foundation is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization based in Ventura, CA, dedicated to protecting the ocean by facilitating environmental education, conservation, and scientific research opportunities for multicultural youth and their communities.

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