The Ernest Prete Jr. Foundation, headed by Mohammad Virani, has partnered with the Lyle Center for Regenerative Students to expand environmental education and awareness among young people.
The project was part of a four-week afterschool series led by 11 graduate students and Professor Kyle Brown, director of the John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies. The spring quarter workshops touched on various environmental and community topics, including alternative energy, water conservation and healthy eating.
In addition to building a scarecrow, students made bird feeders out of orange peels or toilet paper rolls, and they mapped areas in their neighborhood where they have observed art and music.
The Ernest Prete Jr. Foundation has supported an expansion of the Westmont project this year, sowing the seeds of environmental awareness and education.
The partnership is a natural fit. Ernest Prete Jr. was committed to preserving the Earth and educating young people about being proactive in environmental issues, establishing his foundation in 1990. Prete, who passed away in 2000, believed the world should be left better off than when you lived in it.
To that end, the foundation is funding six fellowships for Cal Poly Pomona students to work with Westmont teachers to weave environmental lessons into everyday curriculum.
Partnering with teachers in all grade levels, fellows will lead about eight hours a week of in-class lessons that focus on the environment, environmental science and environmental action. For example, in a lesson about recycling and reusing, students built a scarecrow from a junk pile, which included a discarded cooler, old pipes and a pair of worn skateboard wheels. (See a video at bit.ly/westmont-scarecrow.)
The program will also reach out to students' families and bring the children to Cal Poly Pomona for activities.
"What really attracted me is that this program is teaching kids about the future," says Mohammad Virani, president of the Prete Foundation. "This is the Earth. After we're long gone, these kids will be teaching their kids. These are lessons we have to pass down.
"The buzzword is proactive. We have to do something about the environment, rather than just talk about it. That's why these projects for the kids are very interesting."
In addition, the sustainability workshops are a way to get children interested in school and higher education. Brown says he hopes the experience broadens their view of life after 12th grade.
"Kids aren't always aware of the options they have, especially if their parents or family members didn't have those opportunities either," Brown says. "We'll be using the environment as a medium, but it's larger than that. This is about creating opportunities for Westmont students so they can begin to see the range of things they could study in college and the range of interests and issues that people are passionate about."
Westmont Principal Cynthia Badillo says the Cal Poly Pomona partnership fills a great need because most of her students know very few college graduates. "It's such an enriching connection. Our students are getting great exposure to college and to science." With fellows from diverse backgrounds and academic disciplines, Brown is excited to guide an enriching experience for both the Westmont community and for Cal Poly Pomona.
"Not only does it offer an unparalleled opportunity for students and faculty at Westmont, it is an amazing opportunity for Cal Poly Pomona students," he says. "They will be part of this process where they're actually developing these interactions with the elementary schools and doing that collaboratively as a group with partners at Westmont."
The College of Environmental Design is one of
the most respected design and planning schools in
the nation, with rigorous and esteemed programs in each of its five majors that promote interdisciplinary approaches and sustainability.
Campaign goals for the college will support
a comprehensive new facility for architecture and
enhanced space for the college, endowed chairs in all of the majors, and programs that advance the
Michael Woo, Dean
Carrie Geurts, Director of Development