Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Earth Day Honored at Thomas Jefferson

Posted 04/25/2010 by Rhea Boyd

TJ’s front porch is site for a press conference highlighting DPS efforts to be environmentally responsible.

David Supps, the Cheif Operating Officer for DPS speaks about the solar panels being placed on the TJ roof. Photo by Rebecca Holt

David Suppes, the Chief Operating Officer for DPS speaks about the solar panels being placed on the TJ roof. Photo by Rebecca Holt

On Thursday April 22, DPS announced plans for the future of sustainable energy and other environmentally friendly actions throughout the district’s schools, while recognizing the achievements already taking place.

The conference began with an introduction from Thomas Jefferson Principal Sandra Just. Seated in the front row was a group of students from the Special Ed program, who have been especially involved in TJ’s recycling program. For instance, they have made posters to help students differentiate between what is recyclable and what is not. Principal Just then introduced a Daniels Fund Scholarship recipient and member of the Student Board of Education, Paige Wilson, who would be emceeing the event. “We were pleased to host this event as a representative of all DPS schools,” said Principal Just.

Wilson spoke about the immense steps forward TJ has taken to reduce the amount of waste it contributes to landfills in the last few years. The program began in the spring of 2008 by special education substitute teacher Bill Holden and TJ staff member, Prabin Risal. Passing out purple recycling bins to interested teachers made it convenient for students to recycle. Two other special education teachers, Kerry Black and Mollie Pitrone, promoted the new program and involved their students as part of a work education class.

After shedding light on TJ’s green activities, Wilson introduced David Suppes, the DPS Chief Operating Officer. He spoke about the different positive aspects of going green throughout the district. Not only does the environment benefit from the student and faculty efforts, but also school budget savings and residential recycling are expected to increase. “We know that at least right now we have about 40 million dollars to continue doing projects,” said Suppes. “And as part of those projects we will have education for our students about how the technology works and overall how we use energy and alternative means for energy.”

Next up to the podium was Beth Chacon from Xcel Energy, Manager of Environmental Policy Relations. She spoke briefly on the importance of a partnership with DPS. The company she represents is taking strides forward to create a relationship with the school district to promote sustainable energy. Xcel has helped the district save thousands of dollars from rebates and credits. “Even in the past two years we have been able to work together on a dozen projects at least,” she said. “And that will lead to about half a million kilowatt hour savings.”

Wilson then introduced Ray Tuomey, Co-Founder of Namaste Solar. The company embraces five core values: care for the Earth, customer, company, community and selves. Tuomey spoke about these principles while also mentioning the future of solar energy amongst DPS and other school districts. The Colorado-based company works hard to bring the benefits of solar energy to the surrounding communities, including TJ and 15 other DPS schools. “The school district gets cost savings when it becomes an active participant in the new green economy,” Tuomey said.

After Tuomey finished, Wilson brought Charlotte Pitt to the microphone. Pitt is the Denver Recycles Program Manager and works closely with DPS schools. She discussed the recycling efforts in each of the schools and how it has influenced students to practice recycling in their own homes. “We started this partnership late last summer and to date we have rolled out recycling services to 101 schools and 12 Denver Public Schools facilities,” she said.

Sarah Wolberg is a junior at George Washington High School and attended the press conference to speak about her school’s endeavors to go green and her personal involvement in the cause. She said in the last three years GW has been recycling and composting waste food in the cafeteria, thus saving about 100 tons of trash from Colorado’s landfills. Wolberg helped the environmental club host a colloquium at GW, at which U.S. Representative Diana DeGette spoke about the critical nature of recycling and other efforts within schools and homes.

Two students from Lincoln High School, Miriam Adame and Lily Cobo, spoke about the growing participation they are witnessing among their peers when it comes to taking steps forward for the environment. Recently they and the Green Club cleaned and planted new vegetables in the school’s garden. They thanked the other speakers for helping them find new ideas to further progress as an Earth-friendly institution.

Wilson then closed the conference with a few words about the importance of student involvement and leadership, and the knowledge that should be passed along concerning the environment. “We are proud of the initiatives our students are taking to be more green and excited about the addition of solar panels coming to TJ,” said Just.