Return to Headlines

Highlands CHS Spanish IV Students Shine in Consortium's Sustainability Design Challenge


Photos in order feature the Design Challenge Kickoff, Interviews, Field Trip to Covestro & the Sustainability Challenge Poster Presentation

by Señora Laura Proaño 

Highlands High School CHS Spanish IV students, Señora Laura Proaño and Kristen Gettens participated in a six-month sustainability design challenge sponsored by the Consortium for Public Education and Pittsburgh-area organizations including companies, universities, non-profits and governments. 

The goal of the project was to research local problems and propose innovative solutions that contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This multidisciplinary project launched in October at the Energy Innovation Center with 16 schools and 20 organizations working in the area of sustainability. Following the kick-off, the CHS Spanish IV students conducted research and interviewed local and global experts (in Spanish where applicable) on the topics of community development, economics, the environment and education to inform their projects. The challenge concluded in March at the Energy Innovation Center with a presentation of their poster concepts to Pittsburgh organizations and the other students and teachers from local schools participating in the challenge.

The sustainability design concepts developed by the Highlands students encompassed projects to promote student engagement in community and school governance, composting waste collected at school, initiating a high school SAT prep class and revitalizing the Heights plaza.

Highlands Sustainability Design Challenge Poster Concepts:

Students for Change (Spanish and English) by Haley Dixon, Elizabeth Ransom, Ella Rittman, Connor Watson

Turn Your Spoil Into Soil (Spanish and Englishby Jocelyn Bielak, Kaylee Demharter, Katelyn Myers, London Salter

Score High, Soar Higher (Spanish and English) by Aubrey Coward, Alison Gillette, Jocelyn Scardina, Brooke Signorella

Creating a Consumer Economy (Spanish and English) by Jackson Ament, Jesse Maloney, Lukas Oddis, Cameron Reigard

Riley Therrien and Elliot Vunora also participated in the Sustainability Design Challenge kick-off and poster presentation.


In reflection, the students noted the visit to Covestro as one of the highlights of the project because they were able to network in Spanish with Covestro’s Lo Latino group over lunch and present their projects to native Spanish speakers. The Covestro team provided feedback through questions and comments on their concepts, including encouragement to continue studying Spanish. Cameron Reigard said, “I like how we had to use Spanish no matter what and actually use it in a real scenario.” Katelyn Myers added, “I enjoyed traveling and talking to people in Spanish. I thought this was a great way to interact with people from different cultures and learn more about sustainability.” The CHS Spanish IV students also cited creative and analytical thinking, leadership and social influence and problem solving as some of the future ready skills they used throughout the project.

As Jocelyn Bielak reflected on the challenge as a whole, she said “I liked that we had a lot of creative control in the project, and had few restrictions.” Señora Proaño added, “The creative freedom to integrate Spanish, the UN sustainable development goals, a corporate partnership with Covestro Pittsburgh and Mexico, community partners including our mayor and a local coffee shop, school administrators and teachers and student choice and voice enabled my students and me to grow and learn in new ways. We are truly grateful to the Consortium for Public Education for providing our students with this valuable cross-curricular opportunity.”

A special thanks to Ben Renwick and his colleagues at Covestro, especially their Lo Latino group, for a meaningful tour of Covestro, networking lunch and feedback session of our students’ poster presentations. We also would like to thank our other global and local partners who shared their time and ideas for interviews, including Marisol Lopéz, Angélica Sandoval, Miriam Flores and Nancy Garcia of Covestro Mexico, Mayor of Brackenridge Lindsay Fraser and Harvest Moon Coffee and Chocolates owner Desiree Singleton. Additionally, we would like to express our gratitude to Principal Michael Toole, Counselor Dr. Susie Guerrera, Spanish Teacher Joe Novak, Business Teacher Zach Wells, Science Teacher Matt Sespico, Science Teacher Matt Taladay, Vocal Music Teacher Michael Zeiler and Economics Teacher Todd Bengel for participating in interviews that shaped the student projects.

SDC Group

Check out the article (link below) from the Consortium that included an interview with Señora Laura Proaño about Highlands' participation in the SDC!