Wyoming County Career and Technical Center again took the national spotlight as representatives from the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools toured the facility to look over the center’s eco-friendly classroom projects, “green” education initiatives, ongoing efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and endeavors to improve the health and futures of its students.

They were accompanied by representatives from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the West Virginia Department of Education as well as county schools officials, state representatives and county office holders.

In 2012, the center was among the select schools across the United States to be named the first Green Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education.

Last week, federal officials wanted to observe the sustainability of the ongoing environmentally-friendly programs at the center and the improvements made since 2012, according to Shelia Mann, center director.

One by one, the officials lauded the leading-edge programs practiced each day at the center.

“You should be really proud of what you’re doing,” emphasized Vicki Fenwick-Judy, education coordinator for West Virginia Sustainable Schools.

She added that the projects the center has put into place has helped the entire state move forward with environmentally-focused education programs.

While federal officials conduct a tour of Green Ribbon Schools across the nation annually, this year the tour began in West Virginia, noted Andrea Suarez Falken, director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools.

She lauded the innovative projects at the center as well as the leadership required to implement such programs. She also said she uses the center’s projects as examples when visiting other schools, such as partnering with community businesses, state agencies and non-profits.

“We can’t not teach sustainability and taking care of our environment,” she emphasized.

One of the most innovative programs at the center is the installation of a 42 solar panel system in the industrial equipment shop, under instructor Danny McKinney.

As a result, the center not only generates a portion of its own energy, but is also creating a workforce to install and maintain the renewable energy source for those interested.

The program became a reality with a grant from the Canaan Valley Institute in partnership with Wyoming County Schools and the Hughes Corporation, along with assistance from Dr. Musat Chrilmeanu of West Virginia University, and Truston Technologies.

“Here, we’re in the middle of the coalfields,” Mann noted. “(Coal industry officials) have embraced us and the technology we’re using to give our students a better life.”

Under the supervision of instructors, students are involved in numerous “green” education projects.

Now in the second phase, the diesel technology program has been manufacturing bio-diesel fuel for nearly five years, according to officials. The materials for the fuel come from the center’s ProStart, or culinary skills, program as well as area restaurants and food establishments.

Additionally, the students retrofitted a diesel engine, to run their fuel, which will replace the gas-powered engine in the mobile stage (a reconfigured bus) built by the students and used by surrounding communities for various events, according to Mann.

In addition to recycling oil, the automotive technology students are developing a hybrid golf cart and an ATV to run on alternative fuels.

Electrical technology students have created a golf cart fueled by a small solar panel and batteries.

In conjunction with the electronic technology program, students have also developed a recycling program for the proper disposal of old electronic equipment.

The welding technology program constructed 17 recycling bins that are now in daily use around Wyoming County, Mann said. The bins are transported on trailers also built by the students.

Each year, building construction program students build a house for auction. While the house has been made more eco-friendly each year, standards now include Energy Star appliances, skylights in the kitchen and baths, insulation upgrades, and a “tankless” water heater, Mann noted.

Upcoming programs include construction of a green house to grow vegetables on site for the ProStart, or food services, program as well as developing natural skin care products through the cosmetology shop, Mann said.

“We wouldn’t be able to do any of this without our business partners,” Mann emphasized. “They are wonderful. They give us time, money, and equipment.”

Since 2004, the county school system has saved nearly $3 million in gas and electricity costs due to several energy management programs, according to Terry Tilley, energy manager for the county schools system.

Part of Tilley’s job is to monitor energy savings throughout the school system each year.

“It’s more than energy management,” Tilley emphasized, “it’s not energy conservation if kids are in the dark or cold.”

“There is no other place like Wyoming County,” added Tom Hughes, owner of HSC, one of the business partners. “They are so far ahead of others in the state.”

He believes every county should have an energy manager and the center should offer an energy manager program.

“Only one county has an energy manager, so there are 54 openings as far as I’m concerned,” Hughes said.

“From a legislator’s perspective,” added Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, “this makes our job so much easier – knowing our area is doing things the right way... Congratulations!”

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