Winners again — YES! Team earns Regional and State awards

Deb Moldaschel
Several members of Sleepy Eye's YES! Team gathered for a socially distant celebration of the team's 2nd Place State Award. They are pictured in the pollinator garden at Ross Park, from left:  Advisor Mary Beth Botz, Hailey Meinert, Erika Lozano, Kaydince Thoms, Advisor Deb Reinarts, and Katlyn Capacia.

It’s a yearly event for the Sleepy Eye YES! Team (Youth Eco Solutions) — award season comes around and they win again! The YES! Team is made up of students from both local high schools and was established eight years ago. And, for eight years, the team has received recognition from the Regional and State organization for their efforts.

In mid-May, the team coaches, Deb Reinarts and Mary Beth Botz, received word from Deb Groebner, YES! Coordinator for Southern Minnesota, that the team had been awarded the 2020 Southern Regional 1st Place Award in the amount of $400 and was moving on to the state competition.

On June 2, during a virtual awards ceremony, the Sleepy Eye YES! Team was awarded 2nd Place in the State and have received an awards plaque and $250 monetary award (sponsored by the McKnight Foundation).

The state judges were impressed by the variety of projects the team carries out for both Sleepy Eye Public and St. Mary’s Schools as they also continue to partner and strive for the team to be involved in community-based projects. One judge felt that Sleep Eye’s team could be a model for other teams across the state in encouraging more community-based action projects.

Botz said, “Our local team is known for the Recycle Your Holidays collection, where over 900 pounds were detoured from the landfill this past year.”

“Due to distance learning and covid-19 guidelines, this year’s projects did not all get completed, such as adding additional recycling collection sites for milk cartons and food waste in the Sleepy Eye Public School cafeteria and implementation of signage for the pollinator gardens at Ross Park and Sleepy Eye golf course,” said Botz.

A highlight each year for the YES! Team has been Earth Week activities in April and being part of Party in the Park in July, to continue their mission of educating the public and students on topics such as climate change, water quality, energy conservation, importance of pollinator habitat, waste reduction, and more.

Reinarts said the monetary awards will reinforce projects the team is currently doing in the community as they are eager to add signage for plant identifications and a sitting bench at Ross Park.

“Another direction we are heading is increasing water conservation education in conjunction with our River Watch Program and water quality emphasis,” Reinarts said. “Hopefully, next year, our local team can continue to share their passion and commitment to the Sleepy Eye community.”