Students Help Chart Course for SMSD Sustainability

Students Help Chart Course for SMSD Sustainability
Shawnee Mission School District

Shawnee Mission students are helping to lead the Shawnee Mission School District’s (SMSD) efforts related to sustainable and efficient use of resources. 

Students from all SMSD high schools gathered for a Sustainability Youth Summit this fall. They were joined by educators from all high schools and sustainability leaders from across Johnson County and the metropolitan area.

The event gave students an opportunity to examine issues related to sustainability. They engaged in breakout sessions focused on a variety of topics including, local climate action and programming, the connections between sustainability and mental health, energy efficiency, and transportation.

They also took time to review SMSD sustainability priorities set by students in 2016 and discuss goals for moving forward in the district for the next five years. They will present their ideas to the Board of Education at a meeting on Nov. 15.

By hearing from local community partners, students were given an opportunity to think about how the district can address certain challenges, Leigh Anne Neal, chief of early childhood learning and sustainability shared.

“The students were very engaged and thoughtful and worked to provide recommendations that were actionable and would be important to be realized in the school district,” she added.

It felt exciting to be a part of a group that is playing a role in making lasting change, Carlos Mata, Shawnee Mission North senior shared. He envisioned what he learned being useful in his time as a student and beyond.

“It feels good to be a part of this group that is working on making the district better and making the environment better,” Mata added.

Even if students don’t get to directly experience some of the initiatives that might be implemented, Shawnee Mission West senior Arlasia Jones said she was glad this Summit provided an opportunity to make a positive difference for younger students.

“A lot of us talk about future generations,” Jones expressed. “We need to make the world safe for them.”

Lessons related to sustainability tend to stick with Soli Guinto, a junior at Shawnee Mission West. She was honored to be asked to be a part of this group focused on a topic that had so much personal meaning, Guinto added. 

“It feels empowering to have our voices heard,” Soli shared.  

The collaborative work completed by the students, teachers, and community partners was impressive, Neal expressed.

“The future is very bright, with the commitment and solution-oriented focus these students showed for schools and community,” she shared.