Atascadero's GreenHound Academy cultivates eco-minded students

GreenHound Academy students pose while working on a project.
GreenHound Academy students pose while working on a project.

Meet some Greyhounds who are thinking green.

Thursday night, nearly 40 Atascadero High School students will become the first at their school to graduate from the GreenHound Academy, a special program aimed at encouraging environmental stewardship, promoting greater understanding of ecological issues and developing careers in green technology.

The environmentally minded students spent the past four years studying eco-centric curriculum and participating in community outreach.

“It’s been really neat to watch them grow,” said program coordinator Annie Turner, who teaches English at Atascadero High School.

At Thursday night’s Senior GreenHound Academy Awards, 39 graduating seniors will receive certificates of completion. Eighteen of them will receive green sashes to wear at the Atascadero High School graduation ceremony in June, and four will receive scholarships totaling $1,600.

According to Turner, the GreenHound Academy is the only program of its kind in San Luis Obispo County.

Originally created around 2009 as a way to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education — and funded via grants from the James Irvine Foundation and the California Partnership Academies program — the academy currently encompasses about 15 teachers and 120 students.

The academy’s motto is a play on Atascadero High School’s own: “Sweat Orange, Bleed Grey, Live Green.”

In order to be part of the GreenHound Academy, students must take certain core classes in English, history, science and electives such as ecology, leadership and video production — all with an environmental focus. They’re also required to attend a group study hall, go on green field trips and participate in community service projects such as working in the community garden on campus or at a Paso Robles organic farm.

Because GreenHound Academy participants spent so much time with the same classmates, “They’ve become really close with both their teachers and the other students,” Turner said, adding that participation in the program has also helped boost grade point averages and test scores. “Overall, it’s benefited the students tremendously.”

The program has also forged links between the school and local green businesses and organizations including Central Coast Bioneers, Solarponics and GRID Alternatives Central Coast, she said.

After graduation, Turner said, most of the GreenHound Academy seniors plan to go into green careers, ranging from engineering and sustainable farming to landscaping and environmental legislation.

The Senior GreenHound Academy Awards start at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Atascadero High School library, 1 High School Hill in Atascadero.

For more information about GreenHound Academy, contact Annie Turner at 462-4300, ext. 6790, or