Earth Day brought the news that the East Brunswick Campus of the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools has been named a National Green Ribbon School in recognition of its “green” curriculum, sustainable building management practices and the health and well-being of its students and staff.
MCVTS Superintendent of Schools Brian J. Loughlin announced the honor to 300 people at the district’s annual Advisory Committee Appreciation Dinner April 22 in Piscataway, pointing out that the East Brunswick Campus is the first county vocational school in New Jersey to receive the designation.
The East Brunswick Campus includes East Brunswick Vocational and Technical High School and the East Brunswick School of Career Development. It was among 58 schools and 14 school districts to receive 2015 National Green Ribbon School awards, which were announced by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
“These honorees are compelling examples of the ways schools can help children build real-world skill sets, cut school costs, and provide healthy learning environments,” Duncan said.
MCVTS Board of Education President John F. Bicsko, Jr. noted that “this distinction recognizes several years of work by our district staff, faculty and students to develop a curriculum and put into place practices that emphasize the importance of sustainability in energy use and the importance of environmental awareness in our daily lives.”
“Middlesex County has always been proud of its students, and this award honors not only their achievements in learning, but in altruism,” said Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios. “I applaud the efforts of all the students of the East Brunswick Vocational and Technical School, not only for their hard work, but for their dedication to improving the lives of others, from the food they eat to the energy they use.”
“The healthy lifestyle of these students and teachers and the environmentally conscious operation of the East Brunswick Campus are a great example for schools throughout the country,” said Freeholder Kenneth Armwood, chair of the Business Development and Education Committee. “I am certain these students will apply what they’ve learned in school to their time in the workplace, where their skills can reach and enlighten countless others.”
East Brunswick Vo-Tech Principal Jeffrey Bicsko said the selection was based on three “pillars” of achievement in green action: reducing the school’s environmental impact; improving the health and wellness of students and staff, and initiating an effective environmental and sustainability curriculum.
Efforts to lessen the school’s carbon footprint include an energy audit, installation of water bottle refilling stations to reduce the use of plastic bottles; students’ growing food for use in culinary classes, for the cafeteria and at area food banks, and efforts to repurpose materials rather than throwing them away.
Wellness efforts include a fitness challenge in competition with other schools in the district, establishment of a cross-country team, and an annual 5K race to increase student engagement with the community.
The curriculum now includes a college-level course in conjunction with Stockton State College called “Principles of Sustainability.” The biology curriculum now includes a unit on sustainability, as do the various career majors. There is a new green program of study in which students are introduced to possible careers in sustainable industries, such as alternative energy sources, including solar and wind generation.
The East Brunswick Campus was one of four New Jersey schools designated state Green Ribbon Schools in March. On April 21, the school was visited by New Jersey Commissioner of Environmental Protection Bob Martin, who spoke to students in the green program of study and the agriscience technology program. Martin answered students’ questions before touring the new green lab.
The Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School District, the first full-time county vocational school district in the nation, is celebrating its centennial during the 2014-2015 school year. It has seven schools on five campuses, in East Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge. Over the last three years, Perth Amboy Vo-Tech, the Edison Academy and the Woodbridge Academy have been named National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence.