SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – While Earth Day was officially celebrated on Saturday, April 22, Springfield Technical Community College got a head start and marked the date early with its annual Sustainathon which brought together hundreds of students from STCC and local high schools.

Sustainathon was created to raise awareness of environmental challenges and inspire future leaders. Students had a chance to hear from 22 presenters who addressed a variety of sustainability topics, including water resources, biodiversity conservation, beekeeping, energy and climate and more.

Reena Randhir, a biology professor and organizer of Sustainathon, said the event was modeled after the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which were set in 2015. They include eliminating poverty and hunger, offering quality education, clean water and sanitation, among other goals.

“If we have to meet all of this, the first step is education,” Randhir said. “Each one of us should get educated. Only then can we make informed decisions.”

STCC students attended the event on April 11.

“This event was an absolute powerhouse of active learning and inspiration,” said Sarai Andrades, who wrote a blog about the experience. “High school students were welcomed by STCC student governance and biology students, given cool green shirts that read “I sustain” a powerful message in support of saving the earth.”

She presented present a research poster titled Innovations in “Medical Diagnostic Tools: Enhancing Human Health Resilience to Climate Change.”

STCC student Drew Torres won first prize for his research poster, titled “Virtual Water: A Key to Sustainable Food Systems and Climate Action.”

“I was surprised when I won,” said Torres, who is the Student Government Association president. “I’m proud to have received the Champions of Change Sustainathon trophy. This is an important event that raises awareness, but we are also having fun.”

Indeed, the event included a live mariachi band that played lively tunes. Students danced and participated in games before breaking for a pizza and salad lunch.

About 300 students from Springfield high schools attended the Sustainathon. It was an opportunity for them to meet people working in the field and also see STCC up close and learn more about its programs.

“It gives them an opportunity to learn from folks out in the field what their teachers are teaching them about sustainability,” said Springfield Public Schools Director of Science Ron St. Amand. “They met engineers here today. They met folks who were working in conservation, in sustainability, in agriculture and in the food system.

“It also give them an opportunity to get here to STCC. A lot of our kids will come here,” St. Amand said. “The Sustainathon event 2023 was an unforgettable experience that left me feeling inspired and energized,” Andrades stated in her blog. “It was a true testament to the power of community and the importance of working together to create a brighter tomorrow.  I personally give a shout out to Professor Drs. Reena and (UMass professor) Timothy Randhir  for making this possible.”