Two High Schoolers Receive Their First Grant and Drive Innovative Green Building on Campus

grant IMG 1673-595x832Hi, our names are Tessa Ruff and Sophia Showalter. We are members of the YEA! MN Steering Committee as well as leaders of the Hopkins High School Earth Club. Recently, we applied for and received a grant through the Hopkins Education Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the Hopkins School District. We want to share the process that we went through as high schoolers applying for our first grant!

At the beginning of the year, we decided that we wanted to do something big that would have a lasting environmental impact on our school. We considered many different environmental projects that we could do like solar panels or a green roof. However, after considering logistics, such as cost and time of completion, we had to be a little more creative. We wondered if we could integrate those same things on a smaller, more manageable scale. We decided that a green demonstration building would fit those requirements perfectly. This would be a small building constructed using green building techniques, such as heavy insulation, a small green roof, and solar panels. At first, we considered just building a new structure that’s sole purpose was to exist as a community demonstration of environmental techniques. But after discussing our ideas with our school principal and district director of buildings and grounds, we found an existing building that would serve more of a purpose to the school. In our parking lot, there is a small structure that is used by year around to collect daily parking money. This structure has no heating or insulation, making it the perfect building to rebuild and improve.

grant IMG 1669-595x372After determining our idea and getting it approved by the administration, we began the process of applying for the grant. Writing the grant was a learning experience. We had to explain our ideas in a clear and concise format. Because we were applying for a grant through a foundation focused on education, we had to incorporate how the green building would benefit learning. We proposed the idea of including the construction classes and the environmental science classes. The construction students could help to build the structure, giving them valuable experience with environmental building practices. The environmental science classes could use the building to monitor and measure the effects of the green technology and conduct related experiments. For the grant itself, we asked for funding to allow us to hire an engineer to do a structural review of the site and to hire an architect to design a building plan incorporating our ideas. This is solely the funding necessary for the first stage of our project.

We sent in the grant application in October. After much anticipation, we found out a few weeks later that we had received the funding. Only four of seventeen grant requests were funded, giving special meaning to the importance and innovation of our project. We were told by the Hopkins Education Foundation that our grant was accepted because of its originality and the multitude of beneficiaries, both educational and environmental.

This has been a great learning experience; it is so exciting to know that our passion for the environment is developing into a concrete project that is supported by our school district and community. We are enthusiastic to continue with this project to see it to completion!


Tessa and Sophia are members of the YEA! MN Youth Steering Committee. A core program of the Will Steger Foundation, YEA! MN supports a network of high school environmental clubs working together across the Twin Cities Metro to empower student leadership on climate change solutions, facilitate shared skills and strategies, and take coordinated action at home, at school, and in the wider community.



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