Middle schoolers from La Habra earn top honors — again — in national environmental challenge

Remember when we told you about seven middle schoolers from La Habra who earned national honors in a STEM competition that tasked them with developing a practical solution to an environmental challenge? 

Well, they’ve done it again.

Washington Middle School students

As we reported back in December, the WMS Tree Titans — better known as Cyana Arce, Jessica Emerson, Tannya Gallegos, Yuko Jackson, Janelle Martinez, Emmanuel Ruiz and Kendra Wise from Washington Middle School — were among the winners of the 2017-18 Lexus Eco Challenge after devising a plan to replace campus trees lost to drought and other factors.

That entry was in the contest’s Land and Water Challenge, and it came with a $10,000 prize. But there was also a separate Air and Climate Challenge with a later deadline, and the same seven students from Washington submitted a plan to bring renewable energy to their school.

Now we’ve learned they’ve won top honors and $10,000 in that category too.

The students have taken on a new team name for the latter project, calling themselves the WMS Wind Wolves. But the names, faces and work ethic are very much the same, says their teacher, Dr. Susan Pritchard.

“They are excited, honored, amazed and eager to continue their work, reaching out to the entire community and beyond as they go forward to compete in both grant championships for the Lexus Eco Challenge finals,” she told the OCDE Newsroom. “I could not be more proud of their hard work and diligence.”

Pritchard says the WMS Wind Wolves are exploring ways to bring green energy to their campus, but their bigger aim is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and improve the air quality of La Habra, Orange County and the entire state. So far, they’ve researched air quality issues, conducted interviews and received support from throughout the city — and as far away as Oregon.

“They are not stopping,” she said.

Open to students in grades six through 12, the Lexus Eco Challenge was created to promote critical thinking and research, and it annually distributes $500,000 in scholarships and grants to eligible teachers, students, and schools. The contest is broken into three parts, culminating in a Final Challenge, which features the winners of the previous two challenges. Those results will be announced in the spring.

For more information, visit lexus.scholastic.com.