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ACGC YES team planning to host day-long energy expo for community

GROVE CITY — For the last six years Jasmine Nieto has thrown her heart and soul into learning about and promoting energy conservation and recycling.

Since 2009, she’s gone into elementary classrooms to teach students about solar, wind and biomass energy.

This year she testified before the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources at the state Capitol seeking a half-million in funding for the Youth Energy Summit — known as YES.

The verdict on the funding hasn’t come in yet, but Nieto’s presentation gained the attention of lawmakers who heard her speak and came out of the hearing room to shake her hand.

Now, with the seed of a “wild idea” that was planted almost two years ago, Nieto is playing a major role in organizing a day-long Energy Expo from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday in Grove City that she hopes will bring 2,000 people to the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City High School.

Not bad for a teenager who hopes to pursue a career in renewable energy and engineering after she graduates from ACGC this spring.

“She has energy and excitement in her voice,” said Tami Bennet-Tait, a science teacher at ACGC and adviser for the school’s YES team.

Bennet-Tait, who is respectfully referred to as “Mrs. BT” by students and staff, said that Nieto is a vital team player in the ACGC YES team.

Nieto has become the go-to YES student in Minnesota because of her passion for educating people about reducing energy consumption and her willingness to take that message to the public, Bennet-Tait said.

Over the years, Nieto and the other YES students have gone to elementary classrooms to present a series of energy lessons, initiated recycling of everything from paper to tennis shoes in the schools, promoted the school garden that provides vegetables for the school lunch program, launched composting of school lunch scraps and used grants to purchase solar lights on school grounds.

The Energy Expo this weekend is the largest event the ACGC YES team has undertaken so far.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the free event will feature hands-on activities for kids, like learning how solar cookers can be used to purify water and making designer scarves out of old T-shirts.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. adults will have access to at least 20 energy-related businesses and organizations and opportunities to recycle their old cell phones, ink cartridges, holiday lights and tennis shoes that will generate funds for several school and community organizations.

And the two huge semi-trailers sitting by the high school’s vegetable garden?

Nieto said the goal is get them filled with paper, magazines, phone books, junk mail and cardboard to be recycled to earn money for the ACGC Special Olympics bowling team. The paper drive lasts until Nov. 29, but the team expects most to arrive this Saturday.

Bennet-Tait said the YES team, which she said includes four core members and several other students who help with projects throughout the year, has worked hard to organize the energy expo, including contacting all businesses and organizations and dreaming up all the kids’ events.

Even Nieto seems amazed that they were able to put all the pieces together for the event.

The mere thought of 2,000 people potentially coming to the Energy Expo makes Nieto giddy. “I’d be ecstatic,” she said. “Exhausted, but happy.”

ACGC senior Victoria VanZee, another core member of the YES team, said she hopes people who come to the Energy Expo will be inspired to begin recycling and reduce energy consumption in their own homes.

VanZee said teaching kids is the best way to start, because they will take the message home and teach their parents.

The expo, which includes food for sale by several school organizations and drawings for prizes, is co-sponsored by the Kandiyohi Power Cooperative.

The YES team is also using the $1,000 in prize money they won last year for their first place “overall” ranking in the regional competition.

They’re hoping the Energy Expo, which is focused on community education and participation, will help the team’s competitive chances this year.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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