Sewickley Academy senior chosen as a Green Champion
Amy Kolor's “go-for-it” attitude not only won her a free trip to Nepal and Sri Lanka but also gave her a new interest that could turn into a career.
Kolor, 18, a Sewickley Academy senior, along with nine students from four other local high schools were chosen as Green Champions of Environmental Sustainability for their work regarding water conservation.
The Green Champions award comes from Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's Office of Sustainability and Energy Efficiency. It was developed last year to recognize outstanding Pittsburgh-area individuals and organizations for the work they do focusing on environmental sustainability.
Kolor, daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth Kolor of Cranberry Township, recently transferred from Seneca Valley to the academy and said she wanted to try things she never had the opportunity to do at her former school.
She wanted to be a part of the academy's Global Studies Program, which requires students to participate in a summer international trip and then make a presentation about their journey after returning home.
When Kolor saw posters around school urging students to apply for an all-expense-paid trip to Nepal and Sri Lanka, Kolor said, she thought, “What a great opportunity.”
After applying and going through the interview process, Kolor was chosen as the academy's representative. She and students from other high schools stayed with host families for three weeks last summer to learn how to be youth leaders with a focus on environmental stewardship.
The trip was part of the Youth Leadership South Asia/South Asia Youth Summit, or SAYS, program, a student leadership exchange between students in the Pittsburgh area and Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
SAYS' goal is to develop and improve student delegates' leadership skills and give them the tools they need to transform their ideas into community-based projects, and collective action in order for them to become agents of change.
Members of Kolor's group were the first Americans to participate in the exchange program. However, students from Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives have been traveling to the Pittsburgh area for a few years. During their last visit in May, Kolor's group was able to participate in some activities with them.
During Kolor's trip, she said, her group visited several Buddhist temples and a monastery, helped wash elephants in the river and went to an elephant-refuge facility. They heard lectures from and discussed water issues with community leaders and environmentalist groups.
They also got a glimpse of the countries' problems with clean-water accessibility.
“We saw dead animals in the water. We couldn't drink the water or even wash our face in the water. We could only use bottled water,” she said.
“It made the problem real to us. They are struggling with water cleanliness, and we take for granted our access to clean water. Most people there don't drink the tap water and only drink bottled water. Clean water is not as readily accessible as it is here,” she said.
When they returned home, members of the group pooled the $250 each that was given to create a community project. Together, they formed the group Pittsburgh FLOWW, or For Lowering Our Water Waste, and decided to concentrate on water conservation.
“We all talked about what we could do that would be applicable to Pittsburgh and the local community. Water is a big part of Pittsburgh's history with its river system and the struggles and progress we've made,” Kolor said.
The first project focused on an educational program for sixth- and seventh-graders in the five different school systems students attend. Students were given water-conservation tips to take home with them. Students were given T-shirts and prizes and saw a video featuring a costumed “water man” created by the group.
The group also organized a public water day that featured several volunteer Pittsburgh-area speakers from businesses, organizations and clubs knowledgeable about water issues who set up booths, gave out information and provided interactive activities at the Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts.
Kolor said although Pittsburgh FLOWW's work is done, the next student group that attends the SAYS program has the option of continuing the work, she said.
The trip made such an impact on Kolor, she said, she is looking into environmental studies or business as a college major. She also is working on a senior project with Clearwater Technologies in Sewickley to work with Marcellus shale to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.
Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.