Suez/STAC program to educates students on environmental issues

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BY STEPHANIE GATES
Rockland Country Club Superintendent Matt Ceplo, at right, gives the students a tour of the course.
Rockland Country Club Superintendent Matt Ceplo, at right, gives the students a tour of the course.

The SUEZ Foundation provided a $150,000 grant to put on a week long residence program at St. Thomas Aquinas College for the next three years. The SUEZ Leadership Institute To Introduce Students to Key Environmental Issues accepted 34 high school seniors and college freshman and sophomores who are interested in learning about local and global environmental issues and what they can do to make a difference.

In the program, the students are immersed in an in-depth and hands on curriculum covering water availability, energy, climate change, sustainability, and the environment. Daily activities include guest lecturers, career panels, and field trips to sites like water treatment plants, Rockland Country Club, and Clausland Mountain.
Field work at the Sparkill Creek
Field work at the Sparkill Creek

The SUEZ Foundation is a leading international environmental sustainability and water management company that provides water to 300,000 residents in Rockland County. The program encapsulates the mission of the company at a private university where science majors are among the most popular.

Dr. Margaret Fitzpatrick, S.C., president of St. Thomas Aquinas College said, “The College is committed to making strides in the area of environmental awareness through education, advocacy and action. The Environmental Leadership Institute affords us the ability to continue, and enhance our efforts, while providing an exciting and valuable opportunity for students.”
Press contact at SUEZ Bill Madden explained, “This is a very unique opportunity [for students] to be introduced to important issues in environment and sustainability fields. It’s also a terrific way for high school and college students to look at potential careers in those areas.”
The students are presented with complex and challenging issues that they are able to consider in different perspectives and come up with feasible solutions. One topic of discussion was the recent stage 2 drought declaration for Rockland County. Northern New Jersey has also recently declared a drought warning, so most of the students in the program are coming from areas that are experiencing drought and can relate to and understand the importance of these environmental issues on a more personal level.

In addition to information about the current drought conditions in Rockland County, the area provided the program with many relevant field trip locations. For example on Monday, the group visited Rockland Country Club which is an industry leader in minimal water and pesticide usage. In fact, because of their landscape management and the plantings, the club is a key stopover in a global migration pattern of butterflies.

The students were able to tour a water treatment plant in Hawort, New Jersey and the Orangetown Wastewater Treatment Plant where they took samples to study back at the university lab facilities. They able to participate in a clean-up of Sparkill Creek and took samples from the water there as well.
Chris Graziano, the vice president and general manager of SUEZ New York said, “The Institute will be a fun and engaging way to learn how to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to create positive change on environmental issues in your own community and beyond while earning three college credits.”
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