April 16, 2008 12:30 ET

Los Angeles-Area Students Win National Recognition for Environmental Action

Lexus Awards More Than $1 Million in Grants and Scholarships

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - April 16, 2008) - Students from three Los Angeles-area schools will be celebrating this Earth Day! Not only have they done their part to protect the planet, they've also emerged as three of only 14 first place teams throughout the country who have each won $50,000 in the Lexus Environmental Challenge, a national competition designed by Lexus and Scholastic to educate and empower teens to think big about possible solutions that could make a significant positive impact on the environment.

The schools: Clark Magnet High School in La Crescenta, Sierra Vista High School in Baldwin Park, and South High School in Torrance will each receive grants for $10,000, the teacher advisors will each get a $5,000 grant, and the students will share $35,000 in scholarships for each team. Throughout the seven-month-long environmental education program and contest, more than $1 million in grants and scholarships have been awarded.

"When we introduced this challenge, we really had no idea what kind of programs the students would dream up," said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager. "Well, now we know they're not afraid to dream big, and act on those dreams. We were amazed at all the teams' innovative ideas, their ingenuity and their pure passion for the topics they chose to address. It's exciting to see these young people discover their voices and learn they have the power to make a difference."

Clark Magnet High School's team, "Marine Science Researchers," focused their Final Challenge efforts on showing the effectiveness of no-take zones in the preservation of marine life. The group of five students used Geographic Information System software to compare and document biodiversity inside and outside of marine protected areas. With the help of scuba divers from the Sheriff's Department, the students determined areas of critical habitats that they believe should be given protected status. They shared their results with researchers around the world through a professional scientific association, and their preliminary research findings will be published in the Journal of Student Research Abstracts. In addition, the students presented their project at the 2008 Environmental and Spatial Technology Conference.

"This project gave students the opportunity to experience science that would be done at the graduate student level. They designed, carried out and documented an original research study working side-by-side with industry professionals," said Dominique Evans-Bye, the team's teacher advisor. "With this project, students got out of the classroom, away from reading the books and answering the questions to see what true science is really about."

The issue of reducing global warming to save wild polar bears was the goal of six students who comprised Sierra Vista High School's team "The Ones Who Care." To communicate their message the team created an icon, "Lexus the Polar Bear," who they promoted to the general public in the spirit of "Flat Stanley." They used a variety of tools to spread awareness such as a Web site with a blog, a presence on MySpace, an awareness rally, and a PowerPoint presentation.

"The Ones Who Care has been an uplifting group," shared the team's teacher advisor, Melanie Graf. "We make choices and decisions every day to help our environment and feel it is our responsibility to pass this knowledge onto others. We believe that one person (or seven) can make a huge difference in the world. It starts with us now, so we can provide for a future that will be safe."

The team of ten students on "Landfill Improvement for the Environment's" team from South High School concentrated on raising awareness about air pollution and global warming. The students worked to advocate for stricter greenhouse gas emission laws and educate the community about energy conservation and fossil fuel alternatives. They used fliers, petitions, television coverage, community events and a Web site to promote their messages. Additionally, they translated materials from the South Bay Energy Savings Center into several languages and utilized multilingual students to speak to multicultural audiences at the Center's workshops.

Joan Davidson, the team's teacher advisor has been a proactive voice against air pollution in the Torrance community for many years. "We are at a critical crossroad," she said. "The choice facing us is continuing the use of unsustainable, non-renewable energy sources or shift to a clean energy path using reliable renewable energy sources available today."

The final winners were selected from 55 teams that qualified for this Final Challenge by winning in one or more of the four previous Challenges that were held from September to February. These initial Challenges, addressing land, air, water and climate, asked teams to take a stand for the environment in their local community and winning teams in these categories each won $3,000. The Final Challenge required teams to reach beyond the local community and inspire environmental action around the world through innovative ideas that were communicated to a wide audience.

The Lexus Environmental Challenge will enter its second year in fall 2008. Teachers and students are encouraged to visit to view all the winning entries and to learn how they can take part in next year's program.

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