September 22, 2014 12:00 AM
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As a high school student, Bryce Johnson of Brighton Heights didn’t always see himself as able to help change the world. But as part of a City Charter High School team that won international recognition, he knows he has. “We’re making a pretty large impact, and I love it,” Bryce said.
The team, which started an environmental business, came in second among contestants representing 14 countries at the SAGE World Cup competition in Moscow last month, when six members presented. SAGE stands for Students for Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship.
Photo Credit: Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette
Adviser Maureen Anderson checks Bryce Johnson’s tie as the City Charter High School’s
SEED (Students Encouraging Environmentalism Downtown) team prepares to rehearse its
winning presentation for its appearance at the Pittsburgh School Board. The group won second
place in the Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship’s (SAGE) worldwide
competition in Moscow last summer.
Last week, wearing blue-and-green coordinated competition attire, the team shared its carefully timed 12-minute presentation with the board of the Downtown high school.The team, which is part of an after-school activity, earned the right to compete by winning the national championship in the social enterprise business category, one of two in the competition.The students’ business is called SEED — Students Encouraging Environmentalism Downtown. The organization contracts with City High to collect materials for recycling, including old newspapers, other paper, plastic salad containers and various materials at the school.The students collect from the five floors of the school on Stanwix Street and see that items are in the loading dock area for pickup.
The students figure they collect five tons of materials each month. They estimate they have saved 1,600 trees in 2 1/2 years. The school pays more than $7,000 a year for their services. Of its annual income, more than half goes to scholarships to the school’s SAGE students, 37.5 percent to business and competition expenses and 10 percent for charitable donations and other expenses. Last year, SAGE distributed more than $4,500 in scholarships.
To go to Moscow, the group relied on about $20,000 in donations, including foundation and business support.“It was a remarkable experience, given the state of global politics,” said Maureen Anderson, a City High teacher who, along with teacher Ted Zatezalo, went to Moscow with the students.
“It was without borders and barriers,” she said, noting competitors included students from Russia and Ukraine.The team earned the honor to compete in Moscow by winning the national competition in May at the University of Pittsburgh. Last year, it also took first place in the nationals in Cincinnati, but the team ended up not going to the international competition in Nigeria because of safety concerns after a State Department travel warning stemming from an unstable political climate.DeVaughn Davis, a senior from the North Side, was one of three current team members who would have gone to Nigeria. He said missing the competition only made him more determined to win this time.
At the competition, the students — some of whom hadn’t been out of the country before or even taken an airplane trip — made friends from around the world, some of whom they still contact on Facebook. They particularly got to know the Irish team, which ended up placing first with a business with water-saving devices.
Sam Richardson, a junior from Friendship, said she had never thought she’d leave the state, let alone the continent.“It was pretty eye-opening to me,” said Bryce, who said he met some “awesome people.”Santina Beneditti, a junior from Banksville, said, ”The best thing I learned was seeing the different cultures.“Morgan Crist, a senior from Sarver, said she is “super, super proud” of having helped to form a business, something the group had ‘‘no idea“ about how to do beforehand.Logan O’Hara, a sophomore from Brookline, said the competition has inspired him to want to continue building the business and develop leadership skills.The team is working on developing a new product, likely related to energy conservation. And it is hoping to compete in South Korea next year.City High’s SAGE group includes about 30 students and a wider array of activities than the business alone. It has made donations to various organizations, including collaborating with students in Burkina Faso, a small West African country, and contributing to charities ranging from Tree Pittsburgh to Heifer International. Members also have helped to clean up city parks and volunteer in community activities.
Education writer Eleanor Chute: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1955.