Sonoma County Office of Education

Work-Based Learning Challenge Rewards Sonoma County Students

06/04/2024 -

Students from the Sonoma County Office of Education’s Amarosa Academy recently received the top award in a work-based learning challenge after presenting their idea of a children’s book to raise awareness of recycling to San Francisco-based waste innovators Brightmark.

Students from Amarosa Academy and Rancho Cotate HS meet in SF office of Brightmark

Students from Amarosa Academy and Rancho Cotate High School meet in the offices of San Francisco-based waste innovator Brightmark. The two groups of students each recently were awarded $1,000 as part of a work-based learning challenge to raise awareness of advanced recycling.

The meeting, facilitated by Brightmark and the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE), was the culmination of 12 weeks of work grounded in design-based thinking around making information about advanced recycling more accessible to all communities. Although Amarosa was declared the winner of the challenge, two groups of students, from Amarosa and Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park, each received $1,000.

For the top award, leaders at Brightmark selected a book about recycling aimed at younger children designed by students at Amarosa Academy, the community school overseen by SCOE as part of its alternative education program.

The Amarosa students were motivated, in part, by one student wanting to help create a better world for his little brother. They thought about a part of the challenge that emphasized accessibility for different audiences and decided to create a book in both Spanish and English to reach more people. They decided to focus on younger people who have not yet formed habits around recycling, and to give parents a way to discuss the issue with their children. They also created an educational math toy made out of recycled wood to incorporate recycling and sustainable materials into math lessons.

The students said traveling to San Francisco to give a presentation in a corporate office was unlike anything else they had done in school.

“I don’t really meet people in fancy clothes who are in offices,” said 10th grader Bryan Hernandez Lopez. “. … It made me feel good about myself because I was in a room with successful-looking people in an office in a big building.“

Amarosa 11th grader Alex Bautista Sanchez said that he “manifested” the win by believing in himself and the power of Amarosa’s idea.

“I’m smarter than I think I am,” he said, adding that he learned, “that anyone can do anything, you’ve just gotta put your mind to it.”

Tenth grader Emir Nunez said having a room full of business people listening to his idea was a unique experience.

“I found it interesting that I could help out some business,” Emir said. “It was cool presenting with multiple people that actually care about what you’re saying and that what we say might be used in whatever they do.”

A group of three students from Rancho Cotate presented a website focused on sharing information about recycling, along with physical and virtual posters. The proposal was to share the posters and website throughout other high schools, with an audience of students like them.

Students from Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park meet with Brightmark founder and Chief Executive Officer Bob Powell.

students from Rancho Cotate HS with Brightmark CEO

Brightmark’s leadership team was enthusiastic about both proposals, expressing appreciation for how the two student groups engaged with the challenge.

“We were thrilled to welcome two enthusiastic student groups from Rancho Cotate High School and Amarosa Academy to our San Francisco offices,” said Bob Powell, founder and chief executive officer of Brightmark. “Both teams demonstrated innovative thinking and creativity in their solutions, aiming to make unbiased information and education about advanced recycling more accessible to all communities.

“The students from Rancho Cotate presented a comprehensive website and poster campaign, showing a profound understanding of the challenge and a commitment to extending the program to other schools. The group from Amarosa Academy captivated us with their personal motivations and their unique approach of a bilingual children’s book and an educational toy crafted from recycled materials. Although we chose the latter for its broader accessibility, we were so impressed by both teams that we decided to award them both the top prize. We look forward to supporting both teams in bringing their solutions to life!”