Grambling State University student Corban Bell had an amazing month. He celebrated his birthday, colleague students approved his campus recycling initiative recently and he won the Toyota Green Initiative contest.
University President Frank G. Pogue made it official Wednesday when he announced the news to the campus community. “On behalf of this university… the faculty and staff, all of your colleagues and alumni around the world, congratulations,” Pogue said to Bell as he grasped his hand firmly and looked him in the eye. “It’s an honor to be standing here with you.”
As the grand prizewinner, Bell wins a one-year lease of a 2012 Toyota Prius. He inspected one much like the one he’ll be driving for the next year after the short GSU-Toyota TGI program in the Favrot Student Union’s Tiger Den.
As an involved Student Government Association leader, Bell, 23, proposed a university-wide recycling program, one that would have been implemented with students’ help whether he won the Toyota contest or not. In early April, students passed a bill to create a self-assessed fee of $1 per semester. That fee will raise about $50,000 to support the recycling program during the next five years. “He’s leading the charge to create a recycling program that will be self sustainable,” said Stacey Duhon, the university’s vice president of student affairs.
“I’m extremely excited to win. I worked really hard,” said Bell, who said he also gets $1,200 for insurance and gas. “That car will help me save money.”
Bell’s journey to becoming a green campus national grand prize winner started last year when he represented Grambling State University at a sustainability conference in Greensboro, N.C. Toyota representatives were there talking about the company efforts to involve historically black colleges and universities in sustainability initiatives. Duhon said Bell is a proven leader, serving as chief of staff to the SGA president and working on several committees. He was a likely candidate to represent the university.
“It all began at that conference,” said Bell, who hails from Alameda, CA, outside of San Francisco. “The core of the project will birth sustainability initiatives that go outside the scope of a traditional recycling program.”
Through the Toyota Green Initiative contest, Bell is establishing a permanent recycling program on Grambling State University campus. “My project is highly needed,” added Bell, “It’s an innovative approach to transform this HBCU.”
Bell isn’t the only winner. The university gets $5,000 to help purchase trees for the campus beautification.
“We received so many phenomenal Green Campus Contest submissions from students concerned about the environment,” said Jim Colon, vice president of product communications for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. and TGI Coalition member. “In the end, Corban Bell’s plan to establish a recycling program and lead additional initiatives, such as hosting a sustainability awareness week and expanding Grambling’s compost program, impressed the TGI program as well as voters.”
“Toyota Green Initiative (TGI) is excited to have Corban Bell of Grambling State University as the winner of this year’s Green Campus Contest,” added Colon in a statement. “Bell’s essay on implementing a permanent campus-wide recycling program and establishing sustainability initiatives at Grambling — such as renovating greenhouses and reviving its compost program — displayed ambition in improving the environmental culture at his school…”