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Passionate Kelowna youth tackle environment issues

The 2023 Sustainable Development Challenge takes place Feb. 23
Bianca, Zahara, Isabel and Anna, Grade 9 students at Dr. Knox Middle School, who were winners of the Sustainable Development Challenge in 2020. (Contributed)

Building a better future is the theme of an upcoming event for a motivated group of Grade 8-12 students in Kelowna.

The Grand Finale of the 2023 Sustainable Development Challenge, presented by Global Citizen Events, takes place Thursday, Feb. 23, from 6-9 p.m., at the Rotary Centre for the Arts.

In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 sustainable development goals for a better world by 2030.

The Sustainable Development Challenge was initiated to highlight solutions from those sustainable development goals in the form of projects presented by local youth, partnered with local charities and social enterprises, working towards clean water, clean energy, healthy communities and zero waste.

This year, the teams are working on a variety of exciting projects – from bike transportation to homelessness to solar energy.

“Holar Developments is working on creating redevelopment concept plans for the Kelowna Mill Site and is relying on voices from across the community to shape those plans,” said Mary Lapointe, community relations and consultation representative for Holar Developments, a supporter of the Sustainable Development Challenge.

“We are proud to support this event and learn from the youth who are tomorrow’s leaders and so passionate about creating a sustainable future”

The evening will start with an expo from a variety of organizations working towards making our community more sustainable.

There will also be an opportunity to enjoy artwork created by the youth of all ages in the Arts for Social Change exhibit, with each piece demonstrating alignment with one of the 17 sustainable development goals.

The main show, to be co-hosted this year by Kelowna city councillor Loyal Wooldridge along with some of last year’s student teams, is the project ideas from Okanagan youth pitched, Dragons Den style, to local judges.

The Grand Finale is a culmination of months of hard work, research and collaboration by student teams who propose innovative solutions to impact global sustainability goals.

Past teams have had a significant impact on the lives of community members here in the Okanagan, and countries around the world.

They include teams like a group of Rutland Senior Secondary students who ended up pitching their Take Two recycling project on the Dragons Den program.

Last year’s winning team continues to operate their thrift store social enterprise at Kelowna Secondary School, reducing waste, supporting poverty reduction and raising revenue for Kelowna Gospel Mission every week.

Impact Toolbox worked with the Thrifty Thursdays team after their win last year and was inspired to see these young people’s commitment to meaningful social change.

“Our mission is to empower emerging leaders to create thriving social enterprises and community development initiatives, to address their communities’ critical needs and problems,” said Segun Fatudimu, CEO of Impact Toolbox.

“So we deemed it fit to contribute to the Sustainable Development Challenge to help youth in Kelowna find community partners and financial support to implement their community development ideas.

“We believe this is transformational for the teenagers, who realize that their voices count”

Julia Soleski, with the KSS Thrifty Thursday Team, shared how the barrier against her dreams was always the uncertainty she could accomplish what she set out to do.

“The SDC presented me with an opportunity to learn and make a difference I could never have imagined,” Soleski said.

This year’s Grand Finale will have six teams pitching their ideas live to a panel of judges before a live audience in hopes of being awarded a share of the total prize money, up to $5,000, to make their projects a reality.

“Interior Savings is proud to support these inspiring teams who are so committed to finding solutions to some of our community’s and the world’s most pressing environmental and social issues,” said Brian Harris, CEO of Interior Savings Credit Union.

“It is so important that we as a community focused businesses listen to their concerns and champion their ideas”

As with any community event, sponsorship is important as many businesses and individuals have stepped forward to support the Sustainable Development Challenge: Interior Savings Credit Union, Impact Toolbox, Holar Developments (Mill Site), Runnalls Denby Land Surveyors, Kairos Foundation, Victor Projects, and Sheldon and Shauna Gardiner.

If your business would like to join in support of this year’s teams, or if you’d like to volunteer to help during the evening, please reach out to the Sustainable Development Challenge organizing committee at

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Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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