Redmond's Benzaoui focuses on sustainability with leadership team
By SAMANTHA PAK
Redmond Reporter Reporter
September 14, 2012 · Updated 11:01 AM
Sustainability is a word that has been used with increasing frequency in the last few years, and one Redmond teen is learning firsthand what exactly the word means as a member of the Watershed Report Student Leadership Team.
Josef Benzaoui, a junior at the International Community School in Kirkland, joined the team about a year and a half ago after learning about it at a Redmond Youth Partnership Advisory Committee (RYPAC) meeting. Peter Donaldson, executive producer and leadership coach for the Watershed Report, came in as a guest speaker and shared with the teens an overview of what they do.
Benzaoui said he became interested because the project would give him an opportunity to draw on technical skills he gained while creating a documentary video for the National History Day competition. He would also have the chance to learn more about how he could help the environment.
“(The Watershed Report) seemed like an interesting combination,” the 16-year-old said.
LOCAL SUSTAINABILITY EFFORTS
The program is one of four with Friends of the Cedar River Watershed, a nonprofit whose mission is to engage people to enhance and sustain watersheds through restoration, education and stewardship.
The Watershed Report is a series of short videos produced by high-school students that track positive sustainability trends in the 13 school districts and 28 cities of the greater Lake Washington Watershed. This is the land area in which rainwater drains to Lake Washington and out through the Hiram Chittenden Locks in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. The students cover all aspects of sustainability ranging from green infrastructure to transportation to waste management.
“Every habit we have, especially with storm water…has a huge impact,” Donaldson said.
Benzaoui said one interesting thing he has learned from his time on the team has been how much green and sustainable work is being done in King County and the greater Seattle area. He said they have learned about and visited various sites such as the Bullitt Center in Seattle, the greenest commercial building in the world, and the zHome in Issaquah, which uses a net energy of zero at the end of the year.
“That was one of the big things that was an eye opener for me,” Benzaoui said.
A STUDENT-RUN PRODUCTION
This is the Watershed Report’s third year and they currently have 16 student members representing seven school districts — Lake Washington, Bellevue, Issaquah, Northshore, Seattle, Shoreline and Tahoma — Donaldson said. New videos are produced each year with the most up-to-date information collected by the students, who do the research work, as well as the video work.
This process students go through is called Watershed College and they receive more than 100 hours of training in systems thinking, project management, policy analysis, public speaking and broadcast journalism, Donaldson said. He added that the program has now partnered with Bellevue College and students can now earn college credit through Running Start.
On Wednesday, the new videos premiered at a special screening event at the REI store in downtown Seattle. The annual event is student produced and members from the Watershed Report team present their findings and share their personal experiences to a crowd of 150-200.
Donaldson said people who attend include local decision makers such as city council members, school board members, King County officials, local chambers of commerce, rotary clubs and other civic organizations. Other attendees for the screening event include local green business leaders and emerging green business networks, as well as educators and school green teams.
“Some of them come every year,” Donaldson said.
SPREADING THE WORD
After this screening, he said, comes what they call the community rollout, which includes students addressing their local city councils, school districts, chambers of commerce and rotary clubs — or the “Big Four.”
Another aspect of the Watershed Report is making them useful to schools’ curriculum so the videos are about six to nine minutes.
Benzaoui said he thinks it is very important for young people to learn about sustainability early — especially as he predicts a lot of sustainability-related jobs will be created in the next 10-15 years.
Benzaoui isn’t sure if he will pursue a career in the field, but said he is considering studying business in college. He said will probably combine the green business mentality he has learned from his Watershed Report experience with whatever he pursues in the future.
“In the long term, it’ll save you money,” he said.Contact Redmond Reporter Reporter Samantha Pak at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-867-0353, ext. 5052.