Lincroft principal accepts national award for school’s environmental achievements

Cornelius Begley, principal, center, receives recognition of St. Leo the Great School as a Green Ribbon School during a Sept. 25 ceremony. Courtesy photo.


By Mary Stadnyk| Correspondent

Students in St. Leo the Great School are learning that it’s OK to be green. Not with envy, but with a desire to have an appreciation for environmental and sustainability issues in the world today.

Students and faculty were overjoyed when their principal, Cornelius Begley, was presented with an award during a Sept. 25 ceremony at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C., honoring St. Leo the Great School as a Green Ribbon School. The school was recognized for its innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and costs, promote better health and ensure effective environmental education. 

St. Leo the Great School was one of 35 nationally nominated schools and 14 districts to receive the Green Ribbon recognition, which was announced earlier this year. The honorees, which were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states, included 25 public schools, including three magnet schools and two charter schools, as well as 10 nonpublic schools. St. Leo the Great School is the first Catholic school to receive the Green Ribbon recognition in New Jersey.

“The significance of St. Leo the Great School being honored as a Green Ribbon School teaches our students the importance of being good stewards of our environment,” said Begley, noting that the school’s STEAM curriculum fully integrates environmental and sustainability studies into all grades, preschool through eighth.

“To be recognized at the national level for both our academics [as a National Blue Ribbon School] and Green Ribbon initiatives is attributed to all students, faculty and staff as we strive to engage all students in real world learning that prepares them to be the next generation of global stewards of our environment,” said Begley, noting that any students who are new to the school will come to appreciate the advantages of a sustainability garden, solar power, composting, water bottle filling stations and be able to relate it to their STEAM classes.

Elaborating on the school’s many environmentally friendly initiatives, Begley said that the use of solar energy produces 85 percent of the school’s power needs. A well was installed that irrigates the entire 17-acre campus through underground irrigation in garden beds, which reduce water use, while the athletic fields were rebuilt and re-graded to reduce irrigation demand. Students use water-bottle filling stations to reduce waste and have begun a pilot curriculum based composting project in the cafeteria. In addition, 100 percent of purchased paper is Forest Stewardship Council-certified, and all cleaning products are green-certified.

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