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Tim Talk: Amazing young Tri-Valley innovators honored

 

Two Amador Valley High seniors were among 14 talented students honored at the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group's eighth annual Dreammakers and Risktakers event in October at the Palm Event Center.

Varsha Madapoosi and Bryan Luo -- president and vice president, respectively, of the Local Leaders of the 21st Century Club -- were recognized for their leadership in developing an integrated waste management policy for the Pleasanton Unified School District.

They noted that trash from lunch hour was not sorted so it went straight to the landfill as garbage. Being committed to environmental stewardship and sustainability, they developed a plan to address the situation. That included checking out the Oakland school district plan that they described as a good one. Along the way, they also addressed the school board on several occasions. They also conducted several waste audits, the polite way of saying resorting the garbage.

The board adopted an integrated waste management policy last February. One cornerstone of that policy will be collecting and recycling food scraps as well as sorting various kinds of trash.

They currently are working on the implementation plan with the Amador Green Team. That will include another waste audit plus an inventory of available containers to determine what will need to be purchased. Initially, they are focusing on lunch break, but plan to expand the program into individual classrooms.

They also are targeting ninth-graders, who they say leave the most trash after lunch (they say the freshmen don't even clear their tables) -- and therefore have a lot to learn -- but also will be at Amador for three years so successful implementation in that group will pay dividends for three years. Because freshmen all must take health and physical education, they are planning presentations in those classes.

When they first publicly debuted the initiative at a rally, they were very encouraged when the students started cheering.

In addition to the trash management initiative, Bryan really enjoys cleaning up the arroyo that runs near the high school. They have presented workshops to help the community understand the importance of keeping litter out of the watersheds. They have networked with other groups to build enthusiasm to make Pleasanton an eco-friendly community.

The Local Leaders group is guided by Go Green Initiative founder Jill Buck and Robyn Fenster, who teaches Advanced Placement Environmental Science.

The Dreammakers and Risktakers program celebrates innovation and risk-taking across a variety of disciplines. Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group developed the program to honor young innovators who are innovating for the future while fearlessly pursuing their dreams. The young risktakers are essential contributors to the Tri-Valley innovation ecosystem.

Check out the other honorees and the range of their accomplishments:

* Dublin High School student inventors Neha Harpanhalli and Christy Koh designed the Stay On Course commercial mobile application specifically for high school students to help them measure their progress toward fulfilling the requirements needed to graduate with their desired diploma.

* Las Positas Middle College student Sarah Whalen is a Livermore resident who was honored for writing and directing a science fiction film titled "The Risen." The film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in France this past summer in the category for Emerging Filmmakers.

* Granada High School seniors Andrew Lau and Ashley Zhuang were first-place competitors at the Cisco Cup competition and received third place honors at Code Quest sponsored by Lockheed Martin, showcasing their creativity, innovation and teamwork.

* Las Positas College student Natalie Dutra self-published her debut novella, "The Apple Guardian," which was written in the experimental thriller genre, and also won a Next Generation Indie Book Award.

* Students from five schools across the Tri-Valley region collaborated on a project that brought together biomedical science and engineering design students working across school sites and across school districts to produce a working heart valve prototype. The cross-curricular high school team was connected by the Tri-Valley Regional Occupational Program and those honored included Joshua Beatty (Dublin), Theresa Colberg (Livermore), Luke Doueihi (Dublin), Megan Johnston (Livermore), Ian Lederer (Dublin) and Blake Moddelmog (Dublin).

Editor's note: Journalist Tim Hunt has written columns on the Tri-Valley community for more than 40 years. He grew up in the valley and lives in Pleasanton. His "Tim Talk" blog appears twice a week at PleasantonWeekly.com.

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