Environmental Charter High School
Jordan Howard, Senior at Environmental
Jordan Howard: Black Student Goes Green
By Brian W. Carter
Sentinel Staff Writer
What school offers exceptional education, bright minds, innovative ideas and encourages a green thumb? Environmental Charter High School (ECHS) is a school on the cutting edge of education and going green.
The charter school is just one of six finalists in President Obama’s “Race to the Top” High School Commencement Challenge. ECHS and one of its student’s, Jordan Howard are making strides to change the world we live in.
ECHS was among the six finalists and the only school in California for the Obama Commencement Challenge. The challenge is apart of President Obama’s “Race to the Top” program, which is a $4.35 billion incentive created by the United States Department of Education, to stimulate reforms in local and state K-12 education.
Jordan Howard, a Black senior at ECHS, seized the opportunity to enter her school into the contest. “I found the application online,” said Howard, “when President Obama put out the announcement.” She presented the contest to the school administration, her teachers and student body.
Her school accepted Howard’s suggestion that Obama speak at the ECHS 2010 Commencement ceremony and the rest is history. Together with other seniors and classmates, Howard responded to the challenge of the commencement ceremony.
The finalists had to submit a three-minute video and a 200-word essay highlighting the criteria for the Commencement Challenge. Together, the students of ECHS showcased their environmentally savvy student body along with their impressive displays of economically sound plans, visions and goals and came up with their perfect video.
“I found four of my friends to help me with this,” said Howard, “it’s actually three seniors…one junior…and we all got together and started the essay…got a filmmaker to help convey what we wanted to convey about the school.”
The video put together by Howard and fellow classmates can be seen at www.WhiteHouse.gov/Commencement. Visitors are encouraged to watch each submission by the 6 schools and rate the finalists on a scale from 1 to 5.
“We appreciate each and every vote,” said Alison Suffet-Diaz, founder & executive director of ECHS, “and hope we have the opportunity to host President Obama at this year’s commencement.”
Global Green USA, a national, environmental non-profit organization and recent partner of ECHS, expressed their congratulations as well. “Congratulations on making the final 6,” said Matt Peterson, President and CEO of Global Green USA. “The students of ECHS are incredible inspiration, and are living proof that a green school and curriculum help improve test scores and lives,” he continued.
The communities of Los Angeles have ECHS to thank for inspiring Howard on the track to making the world a better place. “I didn’t want to be involved at first,” said Howard, “I only went…because it was a college prep school and it was safe and small…it was a new way of education.”
It wasn’t long before the school brought out her inner “green thumb.” Howard became more aware of the issues concerning the environment and the economic result of having that knowledge.
“At the school…they don’t talk about problems, they focus on solutions,” said Howard. “They’re not only focusing on solutions, but teaching us how to convey the solutions…and that has inspired me, learning about different ways that we can actually make a difference…we could change the future and we have the power and will to rewrite the story of our future,” she continues.
Howard has definitely taken a hold on her future. She was recently interviewed on Tavis Smiley’s syndicated radio show for Earth Day, has spoken at numerous events, gave presentations and became involved in numerous campaigns.
Howard recently received an award for leadership from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The USGBC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community of leaders that work to make green buildings available to all within a generation
“It’s a youth leader award just saying that I have been doing a lot of amazing projects in my community with the green movement for the past couple of years,” said Howard. “They honored that along with poets from across the nation, and other green and youth leaders from across the nation,” she continued.
She doesn’t show any signs of slowing down in making the world a better and “greener” place. As graduation draws near, Howard looks forward to what the future holds for her.
“Next year, I’m actually going to Green Mountain College in Vermont,” said Howard, “and…I’ll probably major in Communications, Mass Media…I want to do different things, something close to media and inspiring.”
ECHS can definitely be proud of the well-rounded, motivated and passionate young lady they helped mold for the community and the world.
For more information on Environmental Charter High School visit www.echsonline.org. To vote for ECHS visit www.whitehouse.gov/commencement. Voting will end Thursday, April 29 and is live. Be sure to vote for your favorite school.