Students Attend Annual Florida Green Conference/Expo

Students from the Palm Beach County School District were invited to participate in an environmental education program titled “Food for Thought” at the Florida Green, Energy & Climate Conference/Expo held May 22 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

The program included experts in different areas of nutrition and sustainability presenting information to the students in a hands-on and interactive manner.

Schools attending included Jupiter High School, Jupiter Middle School, Roosevelt Middle School, Forest Hill High School and Palm Springs Middle School. Once the buses arrived, students were directed to the expo, where they visited the exhibitors and spoke with them about their products and services. After the tour, they were brought to a main gathering room where the school program was presented.

Marcia Batista of NextEra Energy, lead dietician of NextEra Health & Well Being, greeted the students. As they sat in small groups at round tables, educators began presenting educational topics in a fun and interactive manner.

Placed on tables were all sorts of items such as unusual fruits, farm-grown corn, food packages to read nutrition labels, videos presented on laptops and manure in plastic bags.

Presenters included Jon Mayer, 4-H agent; Michael O’Dell, director of the Wellington Equestrian Master Plan; Erica Whittfield, project coordinator for the RWJF Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities grant; Rick Roth, owner of Roth Farms; Alison Vela and Austin Daniels, students at Jupiter High School’s Environmental Research & Field Studies Academy; and Fred Barch, principal of Pine Jog Elementary School, with assistance from teachers Laurie Mecca and Linda Petuch.

During the program, Mark Aleks, executive chef of the Palm Beach County Convention Center, presented a live demonstration. He created an easy, healthy lunch that students could make at home.

The program also included an essay contest. Students were asked to write their thoughts on environmental issues and explain how young people can make a positive change in reducing the negative impact society makes on the environment. The contest was run and judged by Missy Strauss, host of “Our Greener World” on Seaview Radio. Strauss encouraged the students to focus on water, energy, greenhouse gases and food supply.

Winners would be allowed the opportunity to read their essays on her radio show. In addition, they would receive acknowledgment of their achievement and trophies in the ballroom at the climate conference within the “100 Cities Summit.”

This year’s winners were Mark Whalen and Kat Mager of Jupiter High School, Willmar Escalante of Palm Springs Middle School, Prachi Bhavsar of Jupiter Middle School and Brett DeMarco of Forest Hill High School. All appeared happy to receive their trophies in a large forum with leaders in sustainability in attendance and applauding their accomplishments.

For more about the environmental education program, contact Kathy Roberts at (561) 434-8923. For more about the conference, visit or call Monica Kallas at (561) 762-1713.

ABOVE:  (L-R) Missy Strauss, Mark Whalen, Kat Mager, Willmar Escalante, PrachiBhavsar, Brett DeMarco, Amy Albury and Kathy Roberts.