In the face of the growing climate crisis, Atlantic City Electric, Exelon, the Drumthwacket Foundation and Sustainable Jersey have announced the creation of the NJ Student Climate Challenge, a new pilot program to foster the growing role students and young people are playing in addressing the climate crisis. The initiative builds on New Jersey's efforts to increase climate literacy among young people across the state, including its first-in-the-nation effort to incorporate climate change education across all K-12 state academic standards.
The Drumthwacket Foundation is working with Sustainable Jersey, the program facilitator, to use the $500,000 grant from Atlantic City Electric and its parent company Exelon to develop an exciting new contest that encourages students to explore and address the local impacts of climate change and develop solutions to help their communities become more resilient to a changing environment. For its first year, the pilot program will provide support and recognition to teams of students from public middle and high schools in Atlantic City Electric's service area, with the ability to expand the program to a full statewide New Jersey contest in subsequent years.
"I am thrilled that the NJ Student Climate Challenge will build upon our state's historic effort to incorporate climate change education across our K-12 learning standards," said First Lady Tammy Murphy, president of The Drumthwacket Foundation. "New Jersey's children will lead the nation in the future green economy because of programs and partnerships like this. And, as our students learn to think more critically about how they can help their own local communities become more climate conscious and resilient, our entire state will benefit."
"Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges we face, and we need to take the necessary steps today to help ensure our children have a cleaner and brighter future tomorrow," said Dave Velazquez, president of Pepco Holdings, which includes Atlantic City Electric. "That includes giving our young people the opportunities and resources they need to understand and address climate change in their local communities. We are proud to do all we can to help the state combat climate change and empower youth through this unique program, which will help New Jersey continue to be a national leader in charting a course to a clean and resilient energy future."
The NJ Student Climate Challenge will include a virtual student climate summit and a student contest. Students will participate through their respective schools. There is no cost to schools or students to participate. Contest and summit details are available at bit.ly/NJStudentClimateChallenge.
The climate summit will provide students and educators with an opportunity to learn about actionable ways to address the climate crisis as they begin to think about climate resilience and mitigation projects that could benefit their schools and communities. It will include a series of virtual learning sessions scheduled over a four-week period in February and March. Presenters will include experts from state government agencies, academia and nonprofits and others working to address the causes and impacts of climate change. The sessions will be delivered live with students. Recordings will be available on the Sustainable Jersey for School's website.
To participate in the contest, student teams and their teacher mentors must identify and complete a school or community project to address the climate crisis and create a digital story reflecting on the impact of climate change and what they learned by completing the project. Contest submissions are due June 11, 2021.
A panel of educators and experts from nonprofits, state agencies and the NJ Student Climate Challenge partner organizations will judge the contest submissions. Select entries will be recognized at an awards ceremony in September 2021 hosted by the Drumthwacket Foundation with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy.
"We know our customers want cleaner air and affordable, reliable energy," said Kathleen Barrón, senior vice president of Government and Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy for Exelon. "From our educational programs to our fleet of carbon-free energy sources to our extensive grant programs, including our Climate Change Investment Initiative which will support the next generation of innovators, all of our investments and strategic decisions are focused on meeting the needs and expectations of our customers."
Atlantic City Electric has recently taken several steps to help New Jersey achieve a clean energy future, including proposals to support more clean transportation, increase energy efficiency offerings in the state and build a Smart Energy Network that will connect customers to more clean energy services and technologies.