News Release, Charles County Public Schools
North Point High School celebrated receiving its fourth Ocean Guardian School banner through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A March 27 event was held to commemorate the milestone while announcing the school has received Ocean Guardian School grant funding for the 2019-20 school year.
Ocean Guardian School team members and the club’s sponsor, science teacher Lolita Kiorpes, work to improve wetlands and ocean health, and educate others about the nomination of Mallows Bay-Potomac River as a National Marine Sanctuary.
There are 45 Ocean Guardian Schools in the country, with most in California, Florida, Oregon and Washington State. North Point and J.C. Parks Elementary School are the only two schools with the designation in Maryland.
“This has given me the chance to learn about the environment and what we need to do to protect our oceans,” said Jeremiah Skeete, a senior. “We intend to continue our community involvement and spread our knowledge of ocean wildlife through outreach and environmental outlets.”
Students are the ones who will inherit the issues and triumphs of those before them.
“This is my first year in the club and it has been a really fun one,” said Miya Felder, a junior. “I went to Mallows Bay, where I truly saw how beautiful our environment is and can be when we preserve it. I continue to be in [the Ocean Guardian School program] because I feel this is a necessary step … While we’re young and while we’re still able to.”
North Point students intend to invite others into the program. They invited Westlake High School students to join them on the field trip to Mallows Bay and Kiorpes said there are plans to reach out to Theodore G. Davis Middle School to get students involved in advance of many of them attending North Point.
Club members also are pushing for a Styrofoam ban in Maryland, collecting signatures for a petition and writing letters to government officials to let their stance be known. “We’re doing something at a higher level,” Kiorpes said. “If [the governor] wants to protect businesses in Ocean City, you are going to have to protect the ocean and the beach. As we say in Charles County, Be the Difference. We’re asking him to be the difference for Maryland.”
Student voices are impactful, said Tracy Hajduk, NOAA National Education coordinator. “The students are really the ones driving change in your community,” she said. “You’re making an impact, you’re changing the cultures of your school and you’re changing the culture of your community.”
With a decade of work behind them, Ocean Guardian School studies are finding students are sharing their knowledge and creating more environmental stewards. “One of the things students were reporting who have gone through this program is your ability, knowledge and willingness to talk about this stuff to other people,” Hajduk said. “You are the voice of the future, you’re the ones who are going to make change. You have this knowledge now. You have the tools to talk about these things that are important to you.”