LONG BEACH - From veggie patches and butterfly gardens to signs made from recycled bottle caps, Hughes Middle School works to incorporate aspects of green living into everyday student life.

That's why on Friday, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson paid a visit to the North Long Beach school to announce Hughes as one of four schools in the state nominated for the second annual Green Ribbon School Awards presented by the U.S. Department of Education.

Seventh-grader Luci West, with LBUSD Superintendent of Schools Christopher Steinhauser, center, accepts a Green Ribbon nomination for Hughes Middle School
Seventh-grader Luci West, with LBUSD Superintendent of Schools Christopher Steinhauser, center, accepts a Green Ribbon nomination for Hughes Middle School from California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, right. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

The awards program, unveiled in late 2011, aims to encourage schools to improve their energy efficiency, incorporate environmental learning and show a commitment to protecting the environment.

Last year, neighboring Longfellow Elementary was chosen as one of four schools to represent California in the inaugural event.

Standing in the sunny Hughes courtyard, Torlakson commended the school and the Long Beach Unified School District for their efforts to protect the environment, noting that Hughes was chosen out of more than 10,000 California schools.

The state's other nominees are: Journey School in Aliso Viejo, the Redding School of Arts in Shasta County, Prospect Sierra School in Contra Costa County and the Oak Park Unified School District in Ventura County.


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California is one of 39 states participating in the awards. The national winners will be announced on Earth Day on April 22.

Hughes was chosen for its green efforts on campus as well as its effort in the community. The school boasts a compost center, 12 themed gardens and more than 40 campus trees, many of which are planted in recycled trash bins painted with colorful murals.

The school also partners with a local bike shop to host monthly bike repair and safety workshops on campus.

The green efforts at Hughes kicked off seven years ago when the school received a grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District to plant several dozen trees. Since then, the effort has largely been led by moms Kimberly Peterson and Kathy Porcopio and a "Green Team" of parents who have worked to transform the campus from a landscape of industrial hedges and dirt into an eco-friendly setting. Peterson said the various projects are funded through money generated from school recycling.

"The kids take such pride in their school," Peterson said. "It's wonderful to see how they recycle and try to be green friendly."

For more information on the National Green Ribbon School program, visit www2.ed.gov/programs/green-ribbon-schools/index.html

kelly.puente@presstelegram.com, 562-714-2181, twitter.com/kellypuenteptt