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St. Theresa's environmental champion receives prestigious award

'With just the three of us, it didn’t seem like we could make that much of a difference, but then it just shows that we can,' student J. J. Mc Tague says after receiving SSEA environmental champion award

He may be soft spoken, but St. Theresa's Catholic High School student J.J. Mc Tague's actions speak louder than words.

The Grade 11 student recently won the Severn Sound Student Environmental Champion award for his work with the school's environment club last year and helped his school attain a gold certification with EcoSchools Canada, up from an earlier silver designation by meeting EcoSchools criteria.

Green STREAK, the St. Theresa's Responsible Environmental Klub of 2023, was made up of J.J., his sister Morgan Mc Tague and Alex Fontaine. Fontaine and Morgan graduated in 2023. Teacher Rob Coulas nominated J.J. Mc Tague as he is the lone member of the team still attending high school

"It was definitely a group effort," the math and science teacher says.

The trio embarked on several environmental projects at school including a coat drive, a waste audit, electronic waste recycling, erecting bird, bat and bee houses and with the help of other teachers and students, a community cleanup, a garden bed cleanup, tree planting and a low mow (not mowing) area.

Of all the projects, J.J. liked the e-waste project - where they disassembled old electronic devices - the best. 

“Normally we met up Wednesday at lunch. When we did the e-waste, we met the entire week, every lunch, taking apart whatever we had, a radio and a VCR. That was the hardest to do and the most time consuming," J.J. explains.

Coulas says that by separating electronic components, the group made $300 and put that money toward purchasing bird, bat and bee homes as well as trees and shrubs.

Coulas says he suggested to the trio to try for the gold certification because he could tell they were keen and committed to taking on substantial projects.

J.J. is rightfully proud of their accomplishments.

“With just the three of us, it didn’t seem like we could make that much of a difference, but then it just shows that we can. It felt like we were recognized," he adds.

Coulas says that while the team's projects might not seem that considerable individually, taken together they have a large impact.

"When we looked at all the things we accomplished, it was pretty incredible and that was recognized as a gold status," he says. "It was something we hadn't achieved before."

While J. J. wanted to run the club again this year, there wasn't much interest from other students. As well, he's not at school every day since he's completing a co-op placement.

However, students and staff are still recycling and doing a community cleanup.

J.J. will be back at St. Theresa's for Grade 12 next year, but is already thinking ahead. He's thinking about getting into a trade, possibly electrical, after high school.

And, there's an excellent chance J.J. will continue to be a shining steward of the environment and its champion.