MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The German government awarded eight Mahopac High School students a trip to Chicago, where they took part in the Goethe Institute’s Sustainability Summit and worked with leading experts in the fields of biodiversity, climate, consumption, energy, fair trade, mobility, resources and water.

The cultural arm of the German government, which covered all costs for the students, including flight, accommodations and meals, sponsored the event, held over the Memorial Day weekend. Four hundred students from 21 states attended. The summit is part of the German government’s “Wunderbar Together - Germany and the U.S.” program.

Until the end of this year, Germany and its deep ties to the U.S. will be on display across the United States. The Wunderbar Together campaign has traveled the U.S. bringing with it a collection of events and exhibits revolving around business and industry, politics, education, culture, and science, to highlight the unique importance of transatlantic relations.

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The Mahopac students were selected based on applications that demonstrated scholastic achievement in both German and STEM subjects, especially those related to sustainability. (In the fall, Mahopac German students also attended a live concert by German pop superstar Wincent Weiss in New York City through the Wunderbar Together program.)

Mahopac students were also interviewed at the summit on their plans to introduce the Goethe Institute’s brand new KinderUni, a digital online university for young scientists to learn about both STEM and German. Members of Mahopac’s National German Honor Society and National Science Honor Society, along with their advisors, will team up to offer this opportunity to middle school students through an afterschool workshop.

The Mahopac students who went to the summit in Chicago were sophomores PJ Clark, Andrea Jenkins, and Bert Moklebust, and juniors Nate Dinh, Peter Dorovitsine, Willow Marshall, Fiona Sheeran, and Yvonne Fu. They were led by German teacher Katrina Bauerlein led the group.

Fiona Sheeran said that the teachers at the summit were inspirational.

 “What really stood out to me was the passion held by all of the teachers and all of the representatives of the Goethe Institute,” she said. “They were extremely intelligent and genuinely wanted to teach us everything and anything they knew. They were able to get the students engaged and inspire us to help save the environment in any way we can.”

Junior Nate Dinh said that one of the best things about the experience was meeting fellow students from around the country and bonding with them.

“For some reason, it was really easy to make new friends, and I don’t think I would have made many connections if our group was all kept together,” he said. “I enjoyed hearing about stories from students all over the country. For example, we met some people from as far away as Alaska and as close as New Hampshire. I also enjoyed how the lounge areas had many kids from many states all just mingling together and playing ping-pong with shoes and phone cases.”

Andréa Jenkins said the summit was a great opportunity that allowed her to connect and bond with other students who shared her concerns about the environment, as well as her love for German.

“The information we got was very enlightening and resourceful,” Jenkins said. “The atmosphere was extremely welcoming, and the friendships I’ve made will hopefully last a lifetime.”

“It was really a unique experience to be able to talk about problems and, more importantly, solutions, with other students who actually held passion about the topic,” added Peter Dorovitsine. “I’ve had group discussions before about global warming, but the one that I had with my group was so much more involved, and I feel like that kind of investment and collaboration can really work like nothing else.”

Willow Marshall said that one experience that stuck with her was in the “Future Lab” when students from all over the country came together with solutions for conserving water, reducing waste and more.

“My group, which included students from Texas, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania, came up with a plan for reducing waste in the school lunchroom by building a garden from which the school would be able to obtain ingredients for their food, and reusable plates that the students would bring in to reduce the amount of waste caused by those items. [The summit] has pushed me to learn even more and spread the knowledge I have been given to my fellow students and with my school.”