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Educational Alchemy and a Golden Opportunity: Colegio Roosevelt Receives $50,000 USD Grant for Envi

Allana Rumble, Environmental Systems and Society Teacher, Colegio Roosevelt, Lima Peru

Alchemy (alkɪmi) – Definition – A seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination (Oxford Dictionary)


Photo: Colegio Roosevelt representatives Valeria Wu (Gr. 8), Allana Rumble (Sustainability Manager) and Raquel Herrera (Gr. 12) receive a certificate of appreciation as finalists in the Zayed Future Energy Prize Global High Schools category at an appreciation ceremony in Abu Dhabi as part of Sustainability Week. Colegio Roosevelt also received a $50,000USD grant from Her Highness Shaikha Fatima bint Mubarak, mother of the nation, to use towards Sustainability initiatives within their school in Peru.

Educators are alchemists. Educators create, and transform, through combination and collaboration. There are golden opportunities for our students and our collective future if we can get the science right.

The alchemy in this golden opportunity began when Colegio Roosevelt first learned of the Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP) from one of our current parents and members of our Green Team, Yocamille Arditi-Rocha. Our Green Team meets twice a month for coffee and conversation as a community to discuss how we can improve environmental stewardship within our classes, school, families, community, region, country and world. She was familiar with the impact the prize had on motivating students, schools, families and communities to adopt alternative forms of energy.

The prize itself is named after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. In 1995, The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) presented its highest conservation award, the Golden Panda, to Sheikh Zayed, marking the first time in the awards history that it had been bestowed on a head of state. Conservation of the natural environment was key to Sheikh Zayed, which is a belief that aligns with Colegio Roosevelt’s own mission statement. Water access is also a shared concern between both the UAE and our home city of Lima, Peru which is the 2nd largest desert city in the world.


Photo: Colegio Roosevelt students Raquel Herrera and Valeria Wu reach for the stars in a recent trip to the United Arab Emirates as finalists in the Zayed Future Energy Prize Global High Schools Category

Our participation in this Prize has allowed us to focus further on these areas of fusion, where we are joined, rather than on areas of fission. The creation of this prize showcases that the development of a sustainable future will be an international effort focused on the youth of today. We have a need to reduce our focus on borders and boundaries, on pre-conceived ideas and to open our hearts and minds to forward progress in the development not only of alternative energy but alternative futures.

The Zayed Future Energy Prize was developed in 2009 in honor of Sheikh Zayed and has an international reach for inspiration in making change that is shared across continents, cultures and communities. This is alchemy at its best. The Global High Schools category of the prize started two years ago and sees up to $100,000 USD awarded annually to one school in each of five global regions; The Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania to fulfill the projects outlined within their proposal for finding solutions that will meet the challenges of climate change, energy security and the environment. A prize with this level of generosity has exceptional transformative powers for schools. The prize also has categories for NGOs, small business, large business and Lifetime Achievement.


Photo: Colegio Roosevelt students Raquel Herrera and Valeria Wu along with the other student finalists from the Zayed Future Energy Prize Global High Schools category. Schools from Romania, Isle of Man, Somalia, Malawi, USA (Bronx and Manhattan), Peru, Tonga, Australia, and India were shortlisted in the 2014 competition.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

While it initially seemed a lofty goal, submitting a ZFEP proposal, fit well with our school’s desire to emerge as a leader in environmentally sustainable innovation. As sustainability gains momentum in Peru, we seek to be ambassadors of change and pave the way for other schools to follow.


Photo: Solar Thermal Installation at Colegio Roosevelt

Our proposal for the prize involved investing the grant in a diversified set of initiatives that would consider both economic and environmental responsibility. Our first initiative involved the expansion of a project implemented in October of 2013 that utilizes solar thermal energy in the place of natural gas to heat the school pool. This student led initiative originated as part of a Global Issues Network project and utilized funds raised from grants from the Roosevelt PTA and SUNY University (GIN Carbon Offset Grant) to install ten solar thermal panels. This project is an exemplar of the schools goals with a return on investment of 6-8 months and anticipated savings of $20,000 USD/annually in addition to a reduction of 75 tons/CO2 annually.

Additionally a portion of the Zayed Future Energy Prize grant would be used to install an experimental set of solar photovoltaic panels to power a block of classrooms and allow for data collection to determine the scalability of the project based on economic and environmental savings.

Finally, we proposed that we would convert a portion of our school bus transport system into a more efficient, less-polluting fleet, by switching from diesel to NGV. Collectively these initiatives would allow the school to embark upon the establishment of a Green Revolving Fund. A portion of the funds saved from these initiatives will be placed back into the fund, thus making it “revolving”. The transformative idea being, sustainable funding from sustainability initiatives. Each of these initiatives provides an opportunity for experimentation, data collection and learning, further transforming our golden opportunity into educational alchemy.

With a seemingly magical process of collaborative creative input from our Sustainability Manager, Facilities Manager, Peruvian Director, Superintendent, School leadership, Board, and Students- Valeria Wu (Gr. 8) and Raquel Herrera (Gr. 12) we completed our application for the August 5th deadline, crossed our fingers, and hoped that our ingredients for success were present in perfect ratio.

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” — Bruce Lee

Alchemy is not easy. Prize winning submissions must contain the following key attributes: Impact (tangible, measurable, sustainable, educational, and feasible), Innovation (inventive, resourceful, creative and perhaps even unconventional), Leadership (student-led, collaborative, awareness building, wide spread community involvement), Long-term Vision (on-going commitment to sustainability and global stewardship).

In addition to the strict criteria involved there is a four tiered process of selection and elimination involving a distinct review committee, selection committee and jury deciding the final winners. This year some of the experts reviewing our application included; Executive Director, Energy and Climate, Energy Access Initiative, United Nations Foundation, Richenda Van Leeuwen, Co-Founder, Forum for the Future, Jonathon Porritt, Inaugural Fellow, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University, David Sandalow, President, Republic of Iceland, Chairman, Zayed Future Energy Prize Jury Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, and the Forbes listed self-made billionaire and founder of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson.


Photo: Colegio Roosevelt students Valeria Wu (Gr. 8) and Raquel Herrera receiving a certificate of appreciation from His Excellency Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, president of the Republic of Iceland and jury chairman of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, accompanied by Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber.

Imagine our delight and excitement with the news that arrived in November that we had been selected as finalists in the Americas Region. Anxiety transformed into joy. Possibility transformed into reality. Our finalist status also meant that the ZFEP would send three representatives from Colegio Roosevelt on an all expense paid trip to Abu Dhabi for the January 20th, 2014 Grand Award Ceremony where the winners of each category would be announced. This trip was a transformative experience. Most importantly our cultural understanding of a different part of the world was expansive. While visiting the exceptionally beautiful place of peace that is the Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque, touring the futuristic Masdar City, or savoring the decadence of the Emirates Palace, we exposed our hearts and minds to a different way of being. We need to develop solutions to global climate change as a global community. Our participation in the prize as finalists allowed us to meet our fellow alchemists from around the world, fellow students, and educators who believe that our future begins now.


Schools hold a unique role within communities. Students hold a unique role within societies. When a student proves that not only is change possible, but exciting, transformative and rewarding hope in the future for the whole community expands. There is a ripple effect that is difficult to measure in being part of solution development. Even though the effort and commitment needed to develop this project has been considerable it has been one of the most worthwhile expenditures of effort the Roosevelt community has ever made.


“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” ― Malcolm X

This alchemy did not happen overnight. The transformative process has been, and will continue to be a long one. A detailed list of some of our collective sustainability actions may be found here on our Green Schools Alliance Featured Schools page:

“Students are not only the future, they are the right now. With a generation of informed and empowered youth there is hope for a better society. Students are innovative, creative learners. Their thoughts are flexible and their optimism is strong. This is what we need. Their skills for collaboration are inspirational. They do not see the boundaries or limitations that their predecessors may. I invest time in teaching because of the promise of “return on investment” they provide. Each student represents a golden opportunity for educational alchemy.”— Allana Rumble.

The deadline for submissions for the 2015 Zayed Future Energy Prize is July 14th, 2014. Further information on how to apply may be found at

We plan to apply. I strongly encourage your school to consider creating a proposal as well. Alchemy is addictive. Change is irresistible. Our quest for transformation continues and there is much work to be done. The UN Climate talks for 2014 will be hosted in Lima, Peru from December 1-12, 2014. There is significant opportunity to transform an event known for inaction into one of resolution. How can AASSA exemplify unification and vision through this golden opportunity? Send your ideas to Watch this space for news of a student parallel conference.


Photo: Team Colegio Roosevelt (Raquel Herrera, Allana Rumble (teacher), and Valeria Wu) at Shams 1 -the world’s largest Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Plant in the world near Abu Dhabi, UAE. The group visited the plant during a field trip as part of their Sustainability Week experiences during the Zayed Future Energy Prize.


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