It’s not easy to be chosen as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, but Bishop O’Dowd high school in Oakland, CA is no ordinary educational institution. According to its mission statement, “Bishop O’Dowd High School seeks to develop leaders of influence who are loving, open to growth, religious, intellectually competent, and skilled leaders committed to justice and peace.” Sustainability is one of the school’s guiding values, and in 2013 they hired Andra Yeghoian to direct the Sustainability Department.
Before Andra came onboard, the school had an AP Environmental Science class and a student club called Earth Bound, but they had little or no influence on things like green purchasing, locally grown food in the cafeteria, and campus-wide recycling initiatives.
Andra has conducted waste and energy audits, and has made inroads on integrating sustainability into the curriculum across numerous subject areas. She hosts professional development workshops and is pursuing grants that will pay teachers to develop sustainability curriculum.
The campus has a LEED Platinum Center for Environmental Studies which overlooks the Living Lab, a four acre garden where food is grown next to an outdoor classroom with a stream running nearby. Chickens and ducks are part of the fauna of the Living Lab, which was once an inner city illegal dumping site.
Many of the school’s athletic teams, including the men’s Lacrosse team pictured here, work in the school garden to promote team bonding and to perform service to the school.
Any visitor to the Bishop O’Dowd campus would know that they are serious about caring for the environment. Recycling centers are ubiquitous and properly utilized; students have organized a drive to collect money for clean water technologies for underserved communities; and litter is glaringly absent from the campus grounds.
In May 2016, Bishop O’Dowd will host a representative from St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, NJ to discuss ways to form an east coast/west coast partnership between the staff and students of the two schools to further promote sustainability on both campuses.