The Warrior

Stepping stone to sustainability

Victoria Bartoszewicz, first row far right, representing Lane at the first CPS High School Sustainability Board.

Victoria Bartoszewicz, first row far right, representing Lane at the first CPS High School Sustainability Board.

Photo by Josh Hibben

Photo by Josh Hibben

Victoria Bartoszewicz, first row far right, representing Lane at the first CPS High School Sustainability Board.

By Nina Vo, Reporter

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With the recent decision of President Trump in January to lay tariffs on solar equipment made abroad, the topic of renewable energy comes into the limelight. The tariffs could potentially reduce the demand for solar panels therefore raising up the prices and resulting in the loss of jobs, according to website Popular Science.

Meanwhile, a student hidden from the spotlight has been striving for sustainability.

Victoria Bartoszewicz, Div. 854, co-founder of the CPS High School Sustainability Board, is hoping to apply for a grant to get solar panels implemented with the help of school administration and company Earth, Wind, and Solar.

“Since starting high school I was bothered by how there was little classroom conversation about how our small everyday actions impact larger environmental issues,” Bartoszewicz said.

After traveling across the country to a summer program in 2016, Bartoszewicz unexpectedly crossed paths with a student, Maeve Masterson, who happened to go to Northside College Prep. The two decided to co-found the CPS High School Sustainability Board.

“We decided we shouldn’t have had to go all the way across the country to meet like-minded people from the same city,” Bartoszewicz said.

The two started working on it December of 2016. According to Bartoszewicz, they set out the framework and brainstormed goals and ways to engage in environmental events through the city. Another important component was reaching out to other high schools.    Soon after, the CPS High School Sustainability Board had their first official meeting with all its members in February of 2017.

Chloe Walsh, Div.151, a member of the Board, knew instantly that she wanted to be a part of it. She is originally from California and had always had a strong connection to the ocean.

“I never want to look back fifty years from now and think ‘I just wish I did my part for the environment,’” Walsh said. “Maybe then we would still have the reefs, the rainforests, and the true beauties of the world. Being a part of this board, I know I’m doing my part.”

The student-led CPS High School Sustainability Board consists of members from Northside College Prep, Jones College Prep, Von Steuben, Lincoln Park and Lane. They meet about once a month and ran events like Earth Weeks, thrift stores, and zero waste initiatives.

After seeing schools like Northside and Von Steuben acquiring solar panels, Bartoszewicz decided to make the implementation of solar panels the next environmental project for Lane.

The project was one of first ideas that she wanted to suggest for Lane when she started the Board. At the career fair, she learned about Earth, Wind and Solar, a company that is currently showing her the ropes of the process.

“They’re great because they helped a lot of other CPS schools get the solar panel grant,” Bartoszewicz said. “They’re experienced professionals with solar panels and clean energy implementation.”

According to Inside Climate News, there is a rise in schools being powered by solar energy. Roughly five percent of all K-12 U.S. schools are now using solar energy and their solar capacity has continued to rise in the last three years according to a new study by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation and Generation 180, a clean energy nonprofit.

The solar panels that could possibly be implemented at Lane are not big enough to actually power the whole school, but Bartoszewicz said that it is a step in the right direction.

With the help of Earth, Wind, and Solar, she is hoping to get four solar panels-250 watt each-onto the roof of the school. The ICECF grant that she aims to apply for would aid in reducing a big chunk of the cost of the panels.

“In the future a student sitting in my seat years from now when I’m in college will see those panels and be like ‘well I want to build off of this,’” Bartoszewicz said. “It’s just like a stepping stone.”

The increased use of solar energy in schools is due to the benefits that can be reaped by the schools themselves. One of the most frequently cited reasons schools use solar energy is the opportunity to save money, according to the SEIA.

Although solar energy does help cut costs of utility bills, with the size of Lane, the solar panels might not take off a lot of the load as hoped.

“It’s going to cut our costs but not by a significant amount,” Mr. Davey, Bartoszewicz’s environmental science teacher, said. “The biggest benefit is the educational part.”

One example of the educational benefits of having solar panels can be seen in central Vermont at Woodstock Union High School.

According to SEIA, a science teacher at the high school had helped install and incorporate a panel array into math and science plans. It enabled students to track the production of energy and money savings. A unit was also incorporated into science classes to teach students about the workings of solar energy and how it compares with conventional sources of electricity.

“One of the best features about this specific program with these solar panels is we can see the exact amount of energy they’re producing at any given minute of the day,” Bartoszewicz said. “Then it graphs all that data over a whole year wide period.”

Bartoszewicz decided to approach her environmental science teacher with the idea at the beginning of the school year, and Davey became a helpful guide in the process.

“Victoria is an impressive kid on her own but when you see a student taking the materials that you’re teaching in a class and having it in a real life application,” Davey said. “At that point, you’ve progressed past the classroom.”

The solar panels are just an idea for now, but an idea could lead to something more important.

“It’s the development and implementation of those new levels of energy that are going to  keep the country as a whole much more secure, developing, progressing technologically and progressing in terms of a society towards a more unified future,”  Davey said.

The upcoming events that Bartoszewicz is planning to host at Lane are a LT Thrift Store and a screening of the film Chasing Coral in March/April.  

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