Friday, July 27, 2012 | 7:22 p.m.
Two Las Vegas public schools will each adopt a bus stop next year to encourage children to walk, bike and take public transportation to reduce carbon emissions.
That’s the dream of 60 high-achieving Clark County School District students who launched their "Divide the Ride" campaign on Friday.
This fall, environmental clubs at a public middle and high school will be chosen by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada to maintain two bus stops, redecorating them with posters urging Las Vegans to use alternative modes of transportation.
The schools will be responsible to clean the bus shelters as a community service project for students, and will have the opportunity to brand the bus stops with school-specific designs upon approval by the RTC, which owns the stops.
"We all know that children have the ability to change the culture of a country," said RTC General Manager Tina Quigley. "These budding leaders will make a difference in our future."
The student project was germinated at the private Alexander Dawson School, site of a 4-year-old summer enrichment program sponsored by GB Henderson Education. Both the Dawson School and GB Henderson Education are supported by the Alexander Dawson Foundation.
In 2009, Dawson opened campuses in Summerlin and in Boulder, Colo., to high-performing public middle school children.
As School District programs for gifted and talented students have dwindled amid budget cuts, the Dawson Foundation stepped up by offering a summer program that allows top students to tackle some of society’s greatest problems, said Kevin Cloud, GB Henderson Education’s executive director.
During their first summer, students learn about various social issues surrounding water, health, food and energy issues for five weeks.
During the second summer, the same students work for two weeks to come up with a project that demonstrates their knowledge of an issue and how to solve a societal problem. These teenagers work in tandem with community leaders from groups such as the RTC to execute their social campaigns.
Previous years' projects include public service announcements on the importance of and correct method for hand-washing to prevent illnesses and a program that tries to eliminate plastic water bottles in six public schools by installing water filtration systems and distributing stainless steel water bottles.
This year, 60 returning GB Henderson students took up energy and conservation issues, focusing in particular on the depleting atmospheric ozone layer that protects humans from harmful solar rays. Las Vegas — being a "car-centric" city — could leave a smaller carbon dioxide footprint by embracing public transportation, the students found.
"We thought that the current situation in Las Vegas — the way the streets and public transportation are set up — that had to change," said Nathan Santos, a 14-year-old 8th grader at Leavitt Middle School. "The way it is now, there's too much pollution. It’s not sustainable for future generations."
The students — who came from diverse backgrounds — worked together to design special public service announcements that would fit in the advertising space on RTC bus stops. The students also crafted instructional guidebooks, videos and an incentive program that would award fellow students for using "green" transportation.
The program launches in two Clark County schools this fall, with one of those schools ultimately being given the opportunity to redesign an RTC bus stop by springtime. The hope is these bus stop redesign — funded by GB Henderson and Outdoor Promotions, which manages bus stop advertising — will educate the public about the importance of public transportation to the earth’s environment, the students said.
It’s a message that Cheryl Wagner has been advocating among students, parents and teachers Clark County this past year. The School District’s Safe Routes to School coordinator said the more students walk, bike and carpool to school, the safer schools will be because there’s less traffic and fewer opportunities for accidents.
Nevada first lady Kathleen Sandoval, on hand for the student presentations on Friday, said she hopes the students’ project is expanded throughout the state.
“When it comes to education, you need to think outside of the box,” Sandoval said. “It’s amazing to bring a group of kids together to better our community.”