By Dr. Ben Churchill
Carlsbad Unified School District
Flushable wipes that clog our sewers. Making city financial information visual and more meaningful to residents. Water conservation when restrictions are lifted. Recycling at Carlsbad schools. These and other real life challenges are being tackled by Carlsbad youth participating in the Carlsbad Student Leader Academy.
Through this innovative program — funded by the city, run through Neighborhood Services, and supported by the schools — Carlsbad students are learning that they, too, can have a voice in their community. In conjunction with the Servant Leadership Institute, students participated in leadership training, and then worked in teams to identify local problems and propose possible solutions. The teams next engaged in an evening of interactive presentations of their work before a panel of local experts called the “Serve Tank.” Students explained the problems they tackled and, working with city staff, the solutions they had identified; and, in a format similar to TV’s Shark Tank, experts asked questions and made suggestions.
The esteemed “Serve Tank” panel included Art Barter, CEO of Datron & SLI; former CUSD Superintendent Suzette Lovely; Carlsbad City Manager Kevin Crawford; Greg Anglea from Interfaith Services; and Leanne Abraham, CEO of Premiere Hire.
Student Carter Knight proposed several possible uses for a city-owned lot near the Recycled Water Treatment Plant. They included a Community Arts Park and a Food Truck Thursdays event, complete with live music.
A team of three students proposed that the city’s financial information could be communicated to residents in a more visually-appealing, condensed format that would link to a website where people could find more information. They suggested that the information could be available in the city’s Carlsbad Currents publication. Other ideas: info-graphics of revenues and expenses with comparisons year over year; and a survey aimed to identify which information is most important to residents.
Eight students collaborated on an ongoing water conservation program, proposing incentives to save water even when the state is not experiencing a drought. “Our team did a lot of work on water conservation,” said student Max Ward, a Carlsbad High School junior. “I believe that water is a limited resource, so we should always operate as though we are in a drought.” Students suggested a rewards system offering tax reductions for low pressure shower heads in new construction; the continued implementation of the sprinkler window; and a water-saving publicity campaign with commercials, posters, and magazine articles. “If Carlsbad can conserve, let’s see if we can influence other communities to do the same,” said Max.
Did you know that “flushable” wipes are clogging our sewers? Five students told the “sharks” that wipes don’t break apart when they are flushed but instead create “clusters” that can cost up to $32,000 to remove. Students showed the “Wipes Clog Pipes” video, and suggested that this information be shared on Facebook and social media, targeted especially to people with babies.
Twenty-eight high school students, all residents of Carlsbad, participated in the first round of the Carlsbad Student Leader Academy. One of them is Scott Anderson, a sophomore at Sage Creek High School and a member of CUSD’s Student Superintendent Advisory Committee. “This program has helped me to identify my inner strengths that will help me be a better leader,” said Scott. “I learned that I am good at planning and organizing things.”
“The Academy is all about connecting students to their schools and community, creating future leaders, and teaching our young people that they can have an impact on solving problems on both local and national levels,” said Rosemary Eshelman, CUSD’s Student Services Specialist.
Debbie Fountain, Carlsbad’s Housing and Neighborhood Services Director, said, “By opening up the Carlsbad Student Leader Academy to all Carlsbad residents, it is our intent to have youth from all over the city collaborate and grow together in their community leadership skills as well as learn more about community issues and engage in solutions.”
“This has been one of the most exciting programs I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of,” said Mayor Matt Hall. “The students took on real life challenges and came up with creative solutions. This project will undoubtedly continue —I see it going nationwide. This is one more step to engage the community in better government, and creating the leaders of tomorrow, in both the public and private sector.”