Pioneer students create, lead Sustainability Coalition Club

By Terry Jacoby/

Pioneer students Katie Wolber and Sampoorna Ravikanth are walking through the halls of high school with one step focused on their own dreams and goals and another step looking towards helping create a better future for everyone. These two steps came together in perfect stride when the two students formed the Sustainability Coalition Club at Pioneer.

But let’s take a step back and meet these two amazing young students.

 Ravikanth, the daughter of Haripriya Mahadevan and Ravikanth Vedantham, is the vice president and co-captain for the Pioneer Science Olympiad team. Her role is to manage the team’s administrative work, handle communications and coach several events.

She also is the event head for the Rocks and Minerals and Herpetology events at Pioneer; coaches the Herpetology Division B team at Slauson Middle School; and is a member of the National Honor Society.

Ravikanth also is an active board member of Student Council and a junior co-chair of Pioneer’s Philanthropy Committee. This year, along with the other board members she helped organize the District’s first Sexual Assault Awareness Symposium on March 22 at Pioneer.

Wolber, the daughter of Liz and Andy Wolber, was a moderator for the Sexual Assault Awareness Symposium at Pioneer. After going through training with Safehouse and since she took all three psychology classes available at Pioneer, she was assigned to the psychology session.

“I worked closely with two of the panelists in the psychology breakout session to manage discussion and the topics we covered,” she said.

Read about Earth Day:

Wolber also plays tennis competitively and is going to continue playing next year for Occidental College, a Division 3 school in the Los Angeles area. She also is a member of the National Honor Society.

Somehow, someway these two young students found time in their busy schedules to create another club at the school. The idea for the Sustainability Coalition Club came from the school’s Geophysical Sciences and AP Environmental Science teacher, Mr. Quandt. The plan was to have several different ongoing projects at the school related to sustainability.

“The two of us created and are still leaders of the Education Outreach Group that visits elementary school classrooms and talks about various topics related to sustainability which in the past have been invasive/endangered species, agriculture, climate change, global warming, etc.,” said Wolber. “At the end of the year after noticing a lack of leadership and structure in this club and how many groups were unsuccessful, the two of us took on the roles as president and vice president and restructured and maintained the club on our own ever since.”

“We worked with each group to create reasonable goals and continued supporting and monitoring their work to make sure they were able to reach their goals,” said Ravikanth. “This year we have registered the club with our school and our current staff advisor is Mr. Bernardin (Earth/ Geophysical Science teacher).”

The students say that sustainability is important because it’s how we educate our peers on how to stop destroying our environment and work towards reducing our carbon emission, energy consumption and wastes. The point of the club was to be able to start many small group projects that would evolve into long-term projects as the members moved through high school.

The Sustainability Coalition Club had 50 students sign up and currently has 30 active members who regularly attend meetings. The club has been quite busy this year. The group has been involved in the following events and activities.

* The Greenhouse Team visited the farm at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital where they gained insight in horticulture, plants to consider planting in the greenhouse, and the best times of the year to begin planting the seeds. They had a guest from the farm come and demonstrate how to begin germinating plants in the greenhouse. From there, they have constructed their first “test run” batch of plants which consisted of radishes, Jericho Lettuce, and Joker Lettuce that we were able to acquire from a generous donation courtesy of Nature and Nurture (a local seed supplier business). Fortunately, 75 percent of the seeds germinated and grew into tiny sprouts. They recently planted their final batch of seeds which consisted of kale, lettuce, mustard greens, cucumbers, tomatoes some of which will be sold at Pioneer’s food fair later this month. In addition, they have planted succulents which they are going to sell in a collaborative plant sale with the Pioneer High School Robotics Team.

* The native plants and permaculture group has visited local farms that are based around permaculture to better understand permaculture and get ideas for what students can do at Pioneer. They have planted and maintained Pioneer’s campus garden which is a community garden filled with plants native to Michigan.

* The Education Outreach Team visited five different elementary schools in December to talk to several 2nd-4th grade classes about how global warming and climate change is affecting the oceans. This month they plan to visit another set of classrooms to talk about agriculture, gardening and wastes.

* The Solar Panel team started off the year by getting a small, three panel solar array that acted as a proof of concept project. Currently, they have entered in a solar panel competition for schools and are coming up with a plan and a proposal of what it would take to build a large solar array on the roof of Pioneer. They are working with an industry professional, Dave Konkle, in order to make sure all of the proper steps are taken. This included evaluating Pioneer’s energy use and how much clean energy could be contributed from the installation of solar panels. Tentatively, they would like to have the panels put up either this summer or next summer.

* The Bird project has been doing research this past year on the patterns of bird window collisions and have made plans to implement a system to combat this problem.

* The recycling and composting group have set up an audit to determine the amount of compostable waste that our school produces. The information collected from that audit will be used to set up and organize plans for an on-site composting program that would operate year-round. In the meantime, we will use the city composting program.

* The student body awareness group has worked on creating visibility throughout our school. This year they have created and maintained a bulletin board at our school with team updates, pictures, and information about events coming up.

For more on the group, log onto


The AAPS District News welcomes thoughtful comments, questions and feedback.

All comments will be screened and moderated.

In order for your comment to be approved:

  • You must use your full name
  • You must not use  profane or offensive language
  • Your comment must be on topic and relevant to the story

Please note: any comment that appears to be spam or attacks an individual will not be approved.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.