More than 200 students recently showcased their environmental projects at the Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools (KGHS) and Kentucky National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project Youth Summit and Awards luncheon.

“With all of our school districts facing budget cuts, every penny matters,” said First Lady Jane Beshear. “I am impressed at the initiative shown by so many students and teachers. Through their efforts, many districts have saved enough money on energy costs to purchase new textbooks or keep a teacher in the classroom.

“As an added benefit, we are preparing our students to tackle the energy conservation and sustainability challenges of not only today, but also those of tomorrow,” Beshear added.

Representatives from 30 schools attended the fifth annual event which recognizes student participation in the KGHS program and the Kentucky NEED Project.

In his keynote address, Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters said it is essential that schools equip students with the knowledge and skills to be environmentally literate citizens.

“The skills gained through these programs are crucial in preparing our students to be college and career ready,” Peters said.

The KGHS program continues to grow with 244 schools enrolled to date. Participants implement environmental health and sustainability projects at their schools in nine categories: energy, indoor air quality, green spaces, hazardous chemicals, water, health and nutrition, transportation, solid waste and instructional leadership.

Fourteen of the 57 schools that received KGHS awards for their work this school year attended the summit and were recognized for their achievements in the program.

Farnsley (Jefferson County) and West Carter (Carter County) middle schools and the Evan Harlow Early Learning Center (Mercer County) were awarded School in Progress plaques for completing projects in three categories. Another 10 schools received certificates for joining KGHS and completing initial student team work in KGHS.

Additionally, the Paris Independent and Clinton County school districts received districtwide participation awards for achieving 100 percent enrollment in the KGHS program. KGHS staff members also presented outstanding leadership awards to Green River Regional Education Cooperative energy manager Bill Gittings and energy education curriculum coordinator Andrea Curtis; and Tresine Logsdon, Fayette County sustainability coordinator. Although they were not able to attend, Clinton County school district Superintendent Mickey McFall and Grayson County school district facilities director Glendel Carroll also were recognized at the event for their outstanding leadership.

Elizabeth Schmitz, executive director of the Kentucky Environmental Education Council, which houses the KGHS program, said 50 schools enrolled in KGHS this year.

“Many of these new schools, as well as others already enrolled in the program, received grants made available via funding from the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence,” Schmitz said. “The grant funding has expired, but because of it, we were able to fund 58 energy-saving projects at Kentucky schools.”

The Kentucky Environmental Education Council is an agency in the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. For more information about KGHS, call toll-free (800) 882-5271.