For the third year in a row, Lebanon Trail High School has won the regional Lexus Eco Challenge competition and is qualified to advance to nationals. The team is one of two teams recognized after competing against 11 states in the region for a coveted opportunity to compete nationally.
The regional award-winning team includes Michelle Briceno, Taj Diltz, Kiavash Kashanian, Moses Lin, Kayln Love, Shelby Luhring, Maggie McGrath, Zoe McKnight, Malcolm Oliveira and Zachary Siegel, who were surprised when the entire Lebanon Trail campus gathered together to celebrate them in a parade down the main corridor.
Lexus Eco Challenge advisors Pamela Carpenter, the functional academics teacher, and Kimberly Church, the world languages instructional coach, proudly guided their students down the hallway as the cheerleaders, dance team, drumline, parents and hundreds of students cheered in support of a job well done.
The Lexus Eco Challenge is an educational science, technology, engineering and math competition that inspires and empowers secondary students to learn about the environment and take action to improve it.
The Lebanon Trail Lexus Eco Challenge: Land and Water project is named Special STEMS. The Special STEMS team is made up of students from the functional academics class, a class for students with cognitive disabilities, along with their Best Buddies mentors. Best Buddies is an organization that facilitates student partnerships to create opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The Special STEMS team joined forces with Frisco Community Garden by maintaining, planting and growing vegetables. The harvested produce was then donated to Frisco Family Services and The Samaritan Inn, the area homeless shelter. Through community gardening, the Special STEMS team aimed to learn more about how gardening benefits the local environment and how local agriculture can help meet the daily nutritional needs while reducing landfill waste.
The Special STEMS team also arranged a produce drive that brought in produce from around the community. Tom Thumb also partnered with the team in ensuring healthy options were provided to those in need.
“To see their faces light up when they shared their hard work with the individuals at the shelter was priceless,” Carpenter said. “When we arrived at the shelter, the students had the opportunity to learn what a shelter is and the great services they provide to individuals who are faced with challenges. Not only did they have an opportunity to learn about community resources, they could partake in the act of giving to others.”
With little money and a lot of effort, community gardens can have a huge impact on the community.
“Everyone, including people with disabilities, can make vital contributions to their community,” Church said. “In our case, it started with a few Special STEMS.”
Fresh food is important in everyone’s lives. Through this opportunity, Special STEMS has made progress on some local community goals while proving that anyone, despite cognitive or physical disabilities, can rise to meet the local and environmental needs of their community through hard work.
Thanks to the Special STEMS team success, numerous Best Buddies groups around the country will soon follow in their footsteps. The team is also in the budding stages of a seed project in Uganda and Guatemala as it prepares for the national competition.
Congratulations to the Lebanon Trail Lexus Eco Challenge winners for a job well done. For more information, check out the Special STEMS YouTube video.