Hoping to motivate and inspire students to be agents of change, local District Superintendent Vivian Ekchian today will launch a campaign encouraging schools in the Northwest San Fernando Valley to tackle issues of global concern by taking action in their own backyards.

Ms. Ekchian envisions the Global Humanitarian Challenge as a series of student projects that will address such issues as poverty, hunger, disease and environmental challenges.

The project unveiled today will ask students to design a drought-tolerant landscaping plan known as a xeriscape for their school, a project designed to raise awareness of the historic drought gripping California and other parts of the world. Over the next few months, students will be challenged to create a project promoting health and wellness and another to eliminate poverty.

Ms. Ekchian designed her program around the United Nations’ Millennium Goals and Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to galvanize support to help the world’s neediest people.

“Our Global Humanitarian Challenge allows Local District-Northwest to build upon the tremendous strengths of our schools, parents, and community to empower our students to become active citizens in addressing issues of global concern in our local community,” she said. “Our first challenge asks students to design and create a xeriscape that addresses the need for green space in schools as we confront our current water shortage crisis, allowing them to develop local solutions with the potential to impact our globe.”

El Oro Way Charter for Enriched Studies has a nature habitat certified by the National Wildlife Foundation.

El Oro Way Charter for Enriched Studies has a nature habitat certified by the National Wildlife Foundation.

Several of the nearly 120 K-12 schools in Local District-Northwest are already well on their way to creating environmentally sustainable campuses.

El Oro Way Charter for Enriched Studies in Granada Hills, for instance, has a 5,000-square-foot outdoor science classroom certified by the National Wildlife Foundation. At Enadia Technology Enriched Charter in West Hills, a patch of drought-tolerant plants will soon be replaced with those native to California.

Local District-Northwest will also be getting an environmental makeover. Ms. Ekchian is working with landscaping students from Canoga Park High School and the Miller Career and Transition Center to replace the traditional green lawn with a xeriscape that can better tolerate the dry heat of the West Valley with little supplemental water.

School Board President Steve Zimmer, whose  district includes portions of the West Valley, lauded the project and said he is looking forward to its outcomes.

“LAUSD students are citizens of this fragile world. As such, they have a responsibility to make a difference right now,” he said.

“From Syria to South Africa, from the gates of Hebron to the streets of San Salvador, the news that feeds our inboxs cries out for a human response. Local District Northwest’s Global Humanitarian Challenge answers this call by providing a platform to elevate what already happens in our classrooms and takes it to a new level.

“My years as a teacher and a counselor taught me that our LAUSD students have both brilliant ideas for analyzing problems and the souls for service that can make problems better in real time,” Mr. Zimmer said. “I can’t wait to see the positive and powerful impact this program has on our students, their classrooms and our planet.”

Board member Scott Schmerelson, who represents most of Local District-Northwest, also endorsed Ms. Ekchian’s program.

“I am very excited and impressed with this project and the idea of asking our students to think about global humanitarian conditions right here in the San Fernando Valley,” he said. “Environmental sustainability is so relevant to the water conservation efforts that we are already promoting in the District. I applaud Ms. Ekchian’s innovative approach to teaching and learning, and I know that our students will respond enthusiastically to this challenge.”