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‘The best in the world:’ State Superintendent congratulates SFHS students on win in international German economic competition
Richard Woods
State School Superintendent Richard Woods visited South Forsyth High School on Friday, Dec. 3, to recognize and congratulate a group of five students who recently became the first American winners of the Young Economic Summit, or YES!, international competition. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

State School Superintendent Richard Woods visited South Forsyth High School on Friday, Dec. 3, to recognize and congratulate a group of five students who recently became the first American winners of the Young Economic Summit, or YES!, international competition.

Hosted virtually from Germany, the competition is meant to give high school students the chance to discuss creative solutions to global issues in areas such as economy, society, policy and environment.

The group of students from South Forsyth’s top-rated German program — Olivia Philpot, Elise Kopp, Amelia Pettersson, Katherine Yang and Matthew Gaybba — focused on geothermal energy as a clean, renewable type of energy that is created through heat found within the Earth’s crust.

Through their creative presentation on teaching younger generations more about alternative energy sources at the two-day YES! conference in October, the team of students won the international competition.

“Not only are you the best in Georgia, the best in the United States, but you are the best in the world,” Woods said during his visit.

He stood with the five students in front of a group of their parents, teachers, Forsyth County Schools leaders and South Forsyth Principal Laura Wilson, who all joined in to congratulate the students on their win.

“That’s quite an accomplishment,” Woods continued. “No one can take that away from you. That is something that you will always carry with you as you continue to inspire, to grow and pursue your dreams as you eventually graduate from high school.”


Woods also thanked the students’ teachers for their work and leadership throughout the process and the community for continuing to invest in local kids, schools and programs.

German teacher Jonas Strecker also spoke to the group, letting parents and district leaders know just how much work the group of students put into this project that could potentially lead to real change.

“When we started this project it was really, ‘Hey, it might be a free trip to Germany,’” Strecker said, laughing. “And that didn’t happen because of COVID, but the kids, nevertheless, wanted to do their best and come up with a project that is not only something we can present and be proud of but a project that could actually make a difference.”

The students gave the same presentation to the group that they gave at the YES! conference, speaking on geothermal energy and their solutions for normalizing it and bringing it to the forefront of environmental conversations.

During their original research, the students found that many simply don’t know what geothermal energy is or how it works.

That was how they decided on their solution: to help educate younger generations on geothermal energy and its uses. Then, when they grow up and become leaders in their communities, they know the difference that geothermal energy can make.


Jonas Strecker
German teacher Jonas Strecker spoke to the group, letting parents and district leaders know just how much work the group of students put into this project that could potentially lead to real change. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

“[We want] to introduce them early on to geothermal energy so that they can, having been more exposed to it, make a difference in the future,” Pettersson said.

To do this, they came up with an idea for a GeoBus, a traveling workshop with hands-on activities, modules and experiments for kids to have experience with and understand geothermal energy.

They also developed a prototype of an app called Pocket Power, which provides information on geothermal energy and dispels myths that it may be harmful to the environment. The app could also connect schools and hospitals with geothermal companies to discuss installing geothermal systems on their sites.

“All of this is to prepare the younger generations because we believe they are the leaders of our future,” Yang said.

Strecker said now they really just have to find a way to one day follow through with their amazing ideas. He believes they are more than ready to take on the task.

“I had no idea what geothermal energy was when we started this thing,” Strecker said. “I still struggle with it. All I know is what they taught me, and that’s what they do. They teach us at least as much as we teach them, and that’s how learning happens. Thank you for your time and your dedication.”

Before ending the dedication ceremony, Strecker presented each of the students with a certificate from YES! and their first-place trophy.

 

South Forsyth High School
South Forsyth High School
South Forsyth High School
South Forsyth High School