Sustainable Thinking

High school students participating in one of USF’s Pre-College Programs learn about the environment, sustainability and renewable resources.


High school students in the Patel College of Global Sustainability's Pre-College Program explored aquatic preserves, including this small island in Sarasota Bay. Photos: Melissa Wolfe | USF News


By Melissa Wolfe

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (June 28, 2013) – Exploring aquatic preserves, excavating Hillsborough River banks, and cruising around Sarasota Bay were all in a day’s work for more than two dozen high school students who participated in the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability’s Pre-College Program.


Led by University of South Florida faculty and professionals, the Pre-College Program in Global Sustainability offered rising high school juniors and seniors a chance to explore sustainability careers in a wide spectrum of fields such as architecture, renewable energy and marine science.


We want our program to inspire students by sharing with them new ideas and thinking and to inform them of the great and exciting opportunities that lie before them in the growing green economy," said Kala Vairavamoorthy, dean of the Patel College of Global Sustainability. “Judging from the terrific feedback we are receiving from the students, I think we have succeeded in this respect again this year."


Launched in 2012, the 10-day program features daily interactive seminars from USF instructors and faculty and corresponding field trips that allow students to receive valuable hands-on experience in a variety of interdisciplinary fields.


The global sustainability program is just one of a handful of pre-college programs offered by USF to high school students. Other areas included a STEM Academy with a focus on diabetes and medicine; Computer Science, where students write applications and create games; STEM Research for Scholars, which aims to promote creativity and provide insight into the STEM fields; Biomedical Engineering; Community Film Making; Marine Science; and a STEM Academy focusing on environmental health and toxicology.


This summer, about 165 high school students will participate in the pre-college programs, which is a partnership between USF University College and other USF academic colleges and departments.


The curriculum for the global sustainability program consisted of nightly assigned readings and two research presentations. The itinerary included visits to aquatic preserves, a waste-to-energy facility, a water reclamation facility, downtown Tampa, and the Tampa International Airport. Students were encouraged to document their experiences through pictures, data charts, and jotted notes to include in their daily blog entry.


“The goal is to get the next generation interested in sustainability issues,” said Bessie Skoures, program planner and Patel Center associate director of outreach, “and also to showcase the many different careers that students could pursue at USF that have sustainability elements to them.”


Local King High School junior Christine Russo is already looking forward to studying marine biology and environmental science at USF St. Petersburg.


“We can’t keep depending on non-renewable resources like we do today,” said Russo. “We need to move towards renewable energy or we’ll end up depleting this planet’s resources,” she said. “I want to help research solutions before we really mess up the environment.”


Although this year’s class mainly consisted of local student participation, the Patel College plans to expand and market the program nationally and internationally next year. It is also looking into the converting from a daily to an overnight program.