By Maria Ortiz
The Minnesota Internship Center High School (MNIC) is just starting the journey to becoming a “Green School.” MNIC committed to teaching their students how day-to-day practices at school impact the environment. They’re achieving that goal with some help from local colleges and universities.
“Over the past five years MNIC has been building relationships,” says Amy Libman, Director of Student Support Services. The University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas and Macalester College are all partners in the “Green Project” Libman said, “This is an opportunity for MNIC students to learn green skills and also be exposed to the university experience.” High school interns will have to have excellent attendance and grades, be juniors or seniors, and have strong staff recommendations.
Two college interns, Max, from Macalester College and Jane, from the University of Minnesota, have a strong commitment and interest in the implementation of the green grant. “They each had experiences that helped them develop skills that they could bring to the internship,” Libman explained. College interns need to be willing to commit 6-10 hours per week and work with Libman and the entire team. Most interns are earning credit from their universities (but Libman does not make this a requirement). There are also service-learning college volunteers involved in this project.
This is a compelling project because “MNIC serves populations (i.e., immigrants and urban low income students) traditionally not involved in cutting edge industries and the green movement” Libman stated. The MNIC student population is composed of 98% students of color, both American born and immigrant, that are qualify for free or reduced lunch under the Federal Food program. These populations are in need of both training and income. This project is a chance to invest in the future by training students for green industry jobs, giving stipend internship opportunities, as well as the chance for students to become leaders educating one another and their communities.
Currently MNIC has begun to alter its practices to be more environmentally responsible. The Environmental Science class at one of the five campuses runs a recycling campaign for that campus. Their waste is inconsistently divided into trash and recycling. During this project, they will launch the following initiatives:
- Become a member of MN Waste Wise and take part in their services;
- Improve their waste management practices by separating out organic waste , increase recycling practices thus reducing trash amounts;
- Empower MNIC students to be green leaders by devoting part of the required Environmental Science class curriculum to the study of garbage and waste management (60 students for 4 semesters over 2 years);
- Provide 2 MNIC staff and students the training needed to improve sustainability practices at school, home and in the community through partnership with MN Waste Wise.
- Provide service projects to the community with the possible partnership with American Indian OIC, MNIC interns and Environmental Science class. This environmental project could involve: helping MN Waste Wise conduct audits and waste sorts in surrounding communities, building compost bins for community gardens, etc.
Over the two year period of this project MNIC will be able to lower the cost of waste removal by reducing their amount of trash. By maximizing organic diversion and the associated cost savings, MNIC hopes to make organics at least a break even proposition. Grant monies will provide them with the necessary permanent supplies such as waste containers. Consumable supplies will be paid for with the savings from waste management efforts.
MNIC students will continuously be trained in organic waste management and other sustainability initiatives through more partnerships with local colleges and universities. Their increased awareness, knowledge and commitment will increase their capacity to carry on with these initiatives.