Jacksonville’s Christ the King Catholic School is one of 40 schools nationwide to win the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Award.
The award recognizes schools that reduce their environmental impact, improve student health and wellness, and provide high-quality education in sustainability.
“For us to be recognized by the Department of Education, nationally — typically large school districts with a lot of financial backing win the award — it just proves that with a can-do attitude, even small places can succeed in helping children be their best, and appreciate what God has created, and that’s what our school is about,” said Christ the King principal Stephanie Engelhardt.
Some of Christ the King’s initiatives include collaborating with the St. Johns Riverkeeper to test water quality; raising chickens and growing gardens; and eliminating the use of plastic water bottles.
“One of our projects was to decrease the amount of plastics in our oceans on waterways, because our school is right on Strawberry Creek here in Arlington,” said STEM instructor Suzette Gagnon. “So the student did a lot of research and background information and pricing out, and we eventually got all refillable water fountains on campus, and just in this first year, we were able to save about 15,000 plastic bottles off our campus.”
Students gather food waste for composting and collect rain to water the gardens. The school has also implemented solar panels, LED lighting and programmable thermostats to reduce utility bills.
The K-through-8 private school in the Arlington neighborhood is the only Catholic school and the only school in Florida to win the prestigious Green Ribbon award. A Title I school, Christ the King serves 280 students, 57% of whom are on a tax credit scholarship and 35% of whom are minority students.
“Everybody here has the same opportunity for success and to have these hands-on experiences, because you never know where their passion is going to be,” Gagnon said.
“We figure, if we give them enough of these great experiences, they’re going to find something that’s going to make them want to do something really cool with their lives, something that they're passionate about.”
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