VICENZA, Italy - Over the past few years, Vicenza High School and the U.S. Army Garrison Italy's Directorate of Public Works have worked closely together to tackle environmental and waste issues.

The Environmental Management Office and the high school began their partnership in 2014, when the EMO contacted Kelly York, environmental science teacher and sponsor of the school's environmental club, with the goal of educating young people on sustainability and encouraging them to get involved with these community issues.

One of the school's most extensive projects is "Conserve Caserma," a project-based learning assessment the environmental science class began in 2014. The monthlong group project entails choosing a topic, such as air pollution or green building design, and meeting with the corresponding expert at DPW. Then, students create a presentation to educate the class on their issue, and the class collaborates to create policy proposals for DPW.

Several student proposals passed, York said, to include a proposal to put labels on recycling cans around post and possible implementation of an ozonator - an eco-friendly chlorine alternative - at the Ederle Fitness Center pool. Furthermore, York has facilitated a partnership with radio station AFN Vicenza in which students record an eco-friendly public service announcement to be aired occasionally.

All VHS students also have the opportunity to join the Environmental Club, which totals 20 members across all grade levels. Every Thursday after school, a team of four or five students scour the school for designated recycling cans placed in each classroom, filling several recycling containers in the process. Then, the team brings the cans to the Eco Center, where they sort waste properly into corresponding bins.

"It's not the most glamorous work in the world, but it's what we're passionate about," said Maria Pompelia, last year's club president. "We know we're making a big difference in the community and it's great that we're helping out the garrison."

Several club members are eager to take their efforts a step further, including Kaley Smith, who worked at the EMO in summer 2018 as part of the summer hire program.

"As young people, we have a lot of new ideas," said the 11th-grader, "I think we've made some good groundwork and now that we're able to partner more with DPW, I think we'll get a lot more done."

In the future, the club plans to undertake several more projects, including creating signs for the drains on Caserma Del Din to discourage disposal of harmful chemicals and working to encourage waste separation at the food court.

York attributes partnership success to student commitment to the cause. "We have a lot of really smart kids that want to make a difference in their community," she added.
Jennessa Peterson, a volunteer at EMO, concurred and said students "bring fresh ideas," which she believes is "exactly what our community and the world needs" to solve global challenges.

With the garrison's recent commitment to sustainability and increased recycling rates - Garrison Commander Col. Erik M. Berdy approved an extensive new policy Aug. 20 - the partnership between the high school and DPW will become even more pertinent.