Area high schools big winners

Posted: Thursday, April 29, 2004

Soldotna High School freshman Marit Hartvigson took top honors at the 14th annual Caring for the Kenai competition Friday night. But Hartvigson was just one of several students who helped make SoHi a big winner in the program.

Caring for the Kenai offers cash prizes to students for their creative ideas for how to protect the environment of the Kenai Peninsula. The program also divides up about $10,000 between schools whose students participate in the program.

This year, Soldotna, Skyview, Nikiski, Seward, Ninilchik and Kenai high schools used CFK as a classroom assignment and each will receive $500 for participating. The remaining $7,000 will be split between the schools based on how their finalists placed in the competition.

Soldotna High was home to not only the first-place winner, but also six other finalists.

Justin Oleson of SoHi took fourth place and a $600 prize for his original environmental calendar.

Alyssa Emery of SoHi placed sixth, winning $300 for her research on generating electricity from the river.

Other finalists from SoHi, who each received $150, included Patrick Moore, who came up with a plan to reduce the use of glycol in plane de-icing; Brittany Howard, who created a home bio-remediation kit; Danielle Stafford, who promoted using oil as a cleaner energy source than wood; Sean Whitmore, who built an oil can draining system to collect extra oil from disposable containers; and Jack VanVleet, who demonstrated the benefits of water-soluble packing peanuts.

All told, SoHi students took home $3,150 in cash prizes and brought in $4,875 for the school's science department.

But SoHi wasn't the only winner at the competition.

Students from other area high schools also made a strong showing, earning cash for themselves and their schools.

Elena Bird of Kenai Central High School placed second, winning $1,000 for her idea to replace nylon fishing nets with rubber nets in catch-and-release fishing.

Brittany Dalberg of Seward High created a teen guide to the environment. She placed third and took home $800.

Nick Byrne of Skyview High won a $450 fifth-place prize for a photoremediation plan that would use nature as a cleaning machine for the Kenai River Watershed.

Sarah Herrin of Nikiski also was a finalist, earning $150 for proposing recycling machines be brought to the peninsula to increase recycling and reduce solid waste.

Contest coordinator Merrill Sikorski noted that while SoHi had several winners, the first-, second- and third-place winners were from three different schools, meaning the proceeds of the contest will be spread around.

KCHS will receive $1,550 for its science department; Seward, $1,200; Skyview, $1,025; Nikiski, $850; and Ninilchik, $500.

The cash prizes for the competition are made possible by major sponsors Unocal and Agrium, as well as support from the Kenai Watershed Forum, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Re-Group and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.

Unocal and Agrium also will host an awards banquet for finalists and their families Friday night, with Mike Morgan providing entertainment. In addition to prizes, finalists also received a 2004 CFK sports vest and all 400 participants in the contest will receive a CFK T-shirt.

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