Picerne Family Foundation

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Picerne Family Foundation’s Global Sustainability Project Overview
Picerne Family Foundation’s Global Sustainability Project OverviewI. Overview

The Picerne Family Foundation has created The Global Sustainability Project (GSP) to provide high school students the opportunity to perform meaningful service in support of their community’s environment and to do intensive international environmental field research. The Foundation awards full scholarships to ten students, a teacher and a scientist to participate in a 12-day research expedition to South Africa’s Mankwe Wildlife Reserve where they will aid research scientists studying ecological sustainability among Africa’s wildlife, particularly hyenas and other scavengers. It is an intensive educational, experiential and service program. The Picerne Family Foundation initiated and is leading this program in collaboration with Advanced Placement science teachers in Orange County, California, the Earthwatch Institute, and local universities, nature conservancies and nonprofit organizations.

II. Goals

There is increasing recognition and acceptance that greater international cross-cultural understanding is necessary to achieve global ecological sustainability. Environmental threats do not stop and start at national borders. International collaboration requires a deep understanding and appreciation of other cultures. It is the goal of this project to provide students who have evidenced the potential to be future leaders the opportunity to:

  • Develop an understanding and life experience with another culture very different
      than their own
  • Contribute their skills in sustaining their environment, both locally and

The GSP is a rigorous program with the potential for enduring college, career and life style impact. This program emphasizes critical thinking and objective research-based decision making. These are important skills for students to have as they will soon be assuming responsibility for ensuring the well-being of the environment.

III. Project Leadership

The Kenneth A. Picerne Foundation provides overall leadership, ongoing management and financial support of the program. The Foundation selects award winning Advanced Placement science teachers who have a demonstrated interest in engaging students in off-site ecological programs to lead the preparatory study and the service components of the project. They are also invited to accompany the students on the research expedition. The Foundation selects students enrolled in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses through a written and oral application process. The Foundation provides funding for materials to universities, nature conservancies and nonprofit organizations that are supporting the students’ local service. The scientist or individual supervising the students’ local service project is invited to accompany the group on the overseas research expedition. The Foundation has engaged the Earthwatch Institute to manage the overseas tour.

IV. The Global Sustainability Project

There are three components of the GSP program: (1) local service, (2) expedition preparation and (3) the overseas research expedition.

1. Local Service. Selected students are required to provide 40 hours of service during their junior year of high school on a project that will have significant impact in their community. The teacher develops an off-campus sustainability project in collaboration with a university, local conservancy and/or non-profit organization in their community.

2. Expedition Preparation. The teacher plans an intensive study program prior to the expedition in order to prepare students. Students gain knowledge and understanding of the plants, wildlife, ecology, culture and history of the country they are to visit. The intent is to enrich their overseas experience, making it more personally impactful and meaningful.

3. Overseas Expedition. During the summer after their junior year, 10 students, the teacher and service project supervisor participate in a 12-day international conservation research program conducted by the Earthwatch Institute. Earthwatch is a nonprofit organization that has been supporting field research scientists all over the world for over 40 years. Earthwatch provides the infrastructure and resources needed for an international program for teenagers. It has been named the #1 educational ecotourism organization by National Geographic (www.earthwatch.org). The South African experience gives students the opportunity to do actual scientific data gathering in a field setting as well as immerse them in another culture.

This innovative three-part program designed by the Foundation is unique for American high school students. It is a first of its kind for the Earthwatch Institute. The Picerne Family Foundation is currently evaluating the personal impact and social value of the program as well as the potential for replicability of the program by funders in other interested communities.