Two Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC) students have spoken of their excitement after winning a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the critical COP26 global climate change conference.
Year 13 students Catherine Crees and Jaden Taylor, both 17, were crowned winners of The Waterline Student Challenge 2021, which saw young people aged 11-18 plan and deliver their own eco project to find sustainable climate change solutions as part of Marketing Humber’s The Waterline campaign.
As the “Sustainability Crew” they researched and calculated how students and staff could reduce their carbon footprints by cycling to school rather than driving or using public transport.
Their work prompted many of their classmates and teachers to change their travelling habits and Hull’s employer-led school is now looking at how it can increase its bike shed capacity following the successful response.
Every country in the world will be represented at COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which is being held in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12, with many world leaders set to attend.
Catherine and Jaden’s prize will see them attend on November 9 when they will speak about their project at a fringe event.
The students also hope to spend their £2,500 prize money, including £500 for being finalists, on planting a tree for every Ron Dearing UTC student past, present and future in Hull city centre.
The school is now in early talks with Hull City Council representatives to assess the possibilities and potential locations for the tree planting, which would also involve additional investment from Ron Dearing UTC.
As finalists Catherine and Jaden will also receive a behind the scenes VIP experience with a supporting business, providing an insight into the career opportunities available to them with a company committed to sustainability and protecting the environment.
Catherine said: “It’s an honour to win and have the opportunity to go to COP26. We put a lot of hours and hard work into something that will create lasting change at Ron Dearing UTC and the competition win is a bonus.
“It’s great to know our hard work has paid off and going to COP26 will enable us to look behind the scenes and see for ourselves what is being done about climate change. It’s important we have a green future. Small changes make a massive difference and we all have a part to play.”
Jaden said: “COP26 is a really big deal and it’s a great opportunity for us. It feels brilliant to have won the competition. We’re raising awareness of the need to tackle climate change and it’s good that it’s being taken so seriously.”
Catherine and Jaden, who are both studying Maths, Physics and Engineering in Ron Dearing UTC’s sixth form, will travel to Glasgow with Principal Sarah Pashley and Senior Assistant Principal and Head of Engineering Glenn Jensen.
Glenn said: “We’re immensely proud of Catherine and Jaden and attending COP26 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them.
“Catherine and Jaden’s project was part of our sustainability unit work with one of our Major Partners, Ørsted. They carried out research and produced formulas, and sent a Google form for students and staff to complete on their journeys to and from the school.
“That work has definitely encouraged students and staff to take more responsibility for their own carbon footprints.”
He added: “It’s also brilliant that Catherine and Jaden want to use their prize money to plant trees, which will contribute towards carbon reduction and also support Hull City Council in creating a greener city.”
Sponsored by SSE Thermal, The Waterline Student Challenge 2021 saw six entries shortlisted as finalists, all judged to have demonstrated knowledge of how to protect the environment, as well as creativity, imagination and delivery. Each finalist team was awarded £500.
Entries were judged by representatives from SSE Thermal, KCOM, Associated British Ports (ABP), Yorkshire Water, Ørsted, and Willerby, all of which will be providing a behind the scenes visit for a finalist team, as well as guest judges from the University of Hull and the Zero Carbon Humber project.
Marketing Humber Managing Director Dr Diana Taylor said: “We’d like to congratulate Catherine and Jaden on being crowned winners of this new and exciting competition. They showed great initiative in identifying one way students and staff at their school can act to reduce their carbon impact.
“The standard of entries was incredibly high and our judges were so impressed with the level of thought and detail that went into them all. All of the entries and finalists should be really proud of themselves as they are all playing their part to make a difference.”
The week-long Waterline Summit is the flagship event of The Waterline campaign and links the region to COP26. The summit includes a host of in-person and hybrid events and panel discussions, as well as immersive virtual experiences, positioning the Humber as central to the global climate emergency.
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Pictures: R&R Studio.