Program offers students lessons in sustainability, leadership


Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 3:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 3:46 p.m.

A fledgling program where high school students can learn about innovation and sustainability - while earning 100 hours of community service - begins next week and has openings.

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Interested high school students can visit ufyoungentrepreneurs.org/gssp. Those interested should apply immediately as the program begins on Monday and runs through July 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays. The participation fee is $1,250 fee, which covers staff, supervision, travel and meals. Scholarship money is available.

UF Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership & Sustainability’s Gainesville Summer Service Project ran as a pilot program last year with a single team of six students.

This year, founder and director Dr. Kristin E. Joos hopes to have at least two teams.

Students will learn about social, environmental and economic issues related to the volunteer work they will perform while earning service hours required for Bright Futures, the International Baccalaureate program or other scholarship requirements.

Students who demonstrate merit and need may qualify for financial help to defray the program’s costs. Funds for the scholarship were raised during a Buchholz High School’s Academy of Entrepreneurship event. "We actually brought scholarships from students to give to other students," Joos said.

Students will work with area nonprofits that have missions related to sustainability, innovation and fostering sustainable development.

Each team will have a coordinator - a UF student who works as a leader, mentor and role model for the students. They will empower participants to take leadership of the team, said Joos.

"Instead of making the decisions themselves, they're asking the students, as a team, to make the decisions about how to proceed in accomplishing the goals that they have for that day,” she said. “So, on the site, students are getting to practice and implement leadership skills.”

After finishing their service work, participants will ride back to the UF campus while discussing their work and how it relates to larger social, environmental, and economic issues. They will continue this conversation over lunch at Tempo Bistro, a restaurant that serves locally grown and organic foods.

"The way that we frame the conversation is usually around the questions of what, so what and now what,” Joos said.

“And, that ‘now what’ piece is often the piece that empowers students to realize that they can take leadership around these issues — that they realize that they can change their own actions and educate other people [so that] they can change their actions and, thus, change the world."

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