The University of Central Florida’s efforts to go “green” have earned the attention of the White House, which this week is showcasing the student organization I.D.E.A.S. as a “Champion of Change.”

The Obama Administration’s “Champions of Change” series highlights Americans making positive changes to better their communities. UCF was among the eight students and institutions named “Youth Greening Schools,” which highlights young leaders who are committed to making their schools and communities more sustainable.

Earlier this year, I.D.E.A.S., short for Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions, placed third in the Green Your School Challenge, a national, annual competition in which schools showcase projects that protect the environment and fight climate change. UCF was the only university to make the top 10.

UCF’s participation in the competition is featured on the White House’s website, along with I.D.E.A.S. projects including bike rallies, beach cleanups and environmental education presentations.

As an honoree, I.D.E.A.S. took part in a video conference with other students and actor Kal Penn, an associate director in the White House’s Office of Public Engagement.

The chat presented a unique opportunity for the three-year-old organization because it allowed 11 members to connect with tweens and teens from across the country, said I.D.E.A.S. co-founder Chris Castro, a UCF alumnus.

“The White House saw how I.D.E.A.S. expanded organically,” Castro said. “It was an incredible opportunity to share our story and talk about extending the I.D.E.A.S. network to green youth throughout the country.”

During the 90-minute chat, members of I.D.E.A.S. discussed the organization’s strategies for greening campus and the challenges it has faced. The students also explained UCF’s Climate Action Plan, the university’s commitment to climate neutrality by 2050.

“The video chat was a chance to shine, and that’s exactly what we did,” Castro said.

Since 2008, I.D.E.A.S. has expanded to nearly a dozen chapters, including ones at Penn State and the University of Florida.

The organization previously was featured in a video highlighting UCF’s energy efforts that appeared on the U.S. Department of Energy’s website. The group also was selected as the Conservation Organization of the Year for 2011 by the Florida Wildlife Federation, a nonprofit organization that promotes preservation in Florida.

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