Redwood City, CA—The San Mateo County Office of Education announced 25 stand-out leaders who received a One Planet Schools Challenge (OPSC) award for their innovative sustainability efforts during the 2019-20 school year. Five of these leaders received a financial award to support the next phase of their projects. 

Now in its third year, OPSC recognizes students, teachers, administrators, and community members who are driving environmental sustainability across their school communities. These leaders develop projects within one or more of the program’s six sustainable categories, including Land Ecosystems, Local and Sustainable Food, Sustainable Transportation, Sustainable Water, Waste and Materials, and Zero Carbon Energy. The projects may involve improving campus facilities and operations sustainability, creating curriculum that addresses environmental topics, or building community environmental awareness. 

Among this year’s projects were campus-wide events that built awareness of environmental issues; hands-on units of study exploring environmental topics; and several waste diversion programs. The recipients represented 10 public school districts from across San Mateo County in addition to private schools and community organizations.

“Congratulations to all schools who participated in this year’s One Planet Schools Challenge,” said San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee. “These forward-thinking leaders are not only improving their school campuses,  but most importantly, engaging students and empowering them to make change. The One Planet Schools Challenge provides a powerful opportunity for teachers and school leaders to mentor student leaders and together create sustainable change.”

In addition, five programs that submitted the clearest plans to continue their work received a $500 financial award provided by Peninsula Clean Energy. Information on these programs is included below.

Burlingame High School in Partnership with Burlingame Citizens Environmental Council
Burlingame High School senior Jeffrey Chen partnered with Burlingame Citizens Environmental Council (CEC) to host the third annual CEC Student Film Festival. This year, the festival was expanded to allow fourth through twelfth grade students county-wide to submit their environmental films. “We have been deeply impressed with the depth of films submitted every year and the personal perspectives that have been shared,” said Shirley Lee, CEC Student Film Festival organizer. “Receiving this award is great recognition for the hard work that the BEC has put into this event and will provide inspiration for future CEC Student film fests!”

Foster City Elementary School
A passionate team of educators and students at Foster City Elementary School successfully implemented a campus-wide waste diversion program that was integrated into their school’s curriculum. Because of the program’s success, the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability recognized Foster City Elementary as a Green Star School. “By implementing composting on campus we’re changing people’s mindset around what they can do to be stewards of the environment,” said Kindergarten teacher Jadelyn Chang. “We are grateful to be recognized with this award. It gives kids a total sense of pride to be at a school that cares this much.”

San Carlos School District
San Carlos School District students participated in an engaging district-wide weekly online Sustainability Class. Students explored biodiversity, waste, water, and other topics in the context of their everyday lives at home. “Each week, after we talked about a different environmental topic, students walked away excited to try out a new project that would reduce their ecological footprint. Being recognized for this award motivates our students and community to continue this project and incorporate it into COVID-19 recovery plans as we move forward,” shared Anna Bishop, Climate Corps Fellow for Sustainability Programs.

Summit Public Schools (Shasta and Beyond)
Tenth grade physics classes across multiple Summit Charter institutions learned about wind turbines as a source of clean energy. The unit culminated with students conducting research on their own mini turbines, as well as advocacy for increased use of wind power for a clean energy future. “The hands-on experience will help students remember what they learned and know that there are greener alternatives,” shared Andrew McCarty, Professional Development Manager for Summit Public Schools. “I think it is exciting to be acknowledged that we are working to develop students who will help build a more sustainable future.”

Westmoor High School
After Westmoor High School Biology teacher Jessica Tiatia taught her students about the importance of biodiversity, they and the Environmental Action Club took action by planting nearly 100 native plants around the campus. “Students genuinely understand the concept of biodiversity now; they are excited to be a part of the solution and can see the effect their actions have over the years,” shared Ms. Tiatia. “With this award money, I plan to purchase native plants for students to take home and do plant journaling, conduct experiments, and learn about food webs.”

Below is a list of this year's winners. Learn more about each winning program.

2020 One Planet School Award Winners Category
Bayside Academy - Habiba Naqvi Energy
Burlingame High School in Partnership with Burlingame Citizens Environmental Council  Multiple Environmental Topics and Climate Change
Burlingame Intermediate School - Student Green Team Waste and Consumption
Carlmont High School - Connie Gong and Green Team members Waste and Consumption
Crystal Springs Uplands School - Maya Xu, Ava Wang, Andy Diaz, Matthew Mills, and Tommy Yoon Multiple Environmental Topics and Climate Change
Cunha Intermediate School - Science Teachers Waste and Consumption
Foster City Elementary - Jadelyn Chang Waste and Consumption
Hillview Middle School - Julie Hilborn Multiple Environmental Topics and Climate Change
Hoover Elementary School - Raquel Fiz Waste and Consumption
Mills High School - Aiko Michot Multiple Environmental Topics and Climate Change
Roisin McElarney in partnership with Aragon High School action team and Citizens’ Climate Lobby Multiple Environmental Topics and Climate Change
San Carlos School District - Mindy Hill Multiple Environmental Topics and Climate Change
San Mateo County Youth Commission - Environmental Justice Committee Multiple Environmental Topics and Climate Change
Serendipity School - Sonia Myers Waste and Consumption
South San Francisco High School - Finley Liquete Multiple Environmental Topics and Climate Change
Spruce Elementary School - Jacqueline Del Bianco Local and Sustainable Food
Summit Public Schools Shasta - Andrew McCarty Energy
Sunshine Gardens Elementary School - Julie Mathiasen Local and Sustainable Food
Taylor Middle School - Julie DiMaio Multiple Environmental Topics and Climate Change
Taylor Middle School - Julie DiMiao Local and Sustainable Food
The Nueva School - Andrew Chu and environmental club members Energy
Tierra Linda Middle School - Charu Gulati Water
Tierra Linda Middle School - Kristen Ugrin Waste and Consumption
Westmoor High School - Jessica Tiatia Biodiversity
White Oaks Elementary School - Sonia Elkes Transportation
Woodside High School - Kayla Knupfer Multiple Environmental Topics and Climate Change


The San Mateo County Office of Education is committed to ensuring excellence and equity in education by inspiring students, investing in teachers, invigorating leaders, and involving communities.