Cale K., an ecology student at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), aims through his studies to learn ways to “mitigate and even reverse some of the human-mediated effects of environmental change.” He’s relying on PIPs, earned as a participant in the PIPs for School program at UCCS, to help him pursue these goals.

This summer Cale was offered the opportunity to participate in research being conducted at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL). Based in the ghost town of Gothic, Colorado, RMBL is “a research station…[with] some of the longest running climate data research going on in the world.”

“It’s a really neat opportunity,” Cale effuses. This is exactly the sort of work to which he wants to dedicate his career. But, as he explains, “Without the PIPs program offsetting some of the expenses, I just wouldn’t be able to cover the full cost myself.” The P4S program, which allows students to convert the PIPs they earn into grants for school, has been “really instrumental” in advancing Cale’s personal and career goals.

Cale works at the Sustainability House at UCCS which leads the semi-annual Clean the Stream event and awards PIPs to all who volunteer. The largest watershed cleanup in the state of Colorado, Clean the Stream occurs along the Fountain Creek watershed which starts in the Rocky Mountains, just a little bit north of Colorado Springs, and ends at the confluence with the Arkansas River.

“We have one of the most littered sections of that stream running here through Colorado Springs,” Cale bemoans. “We’ll pull about 50 or 60 bags of trash out of that. In the larger sense, it really helps bring into context the scale of plastic waste and other things going into streams and how quickly it can accumulate. And while that may sound sad, it also provides an opportunity to engage with the community and show them how their actions can make a tangible difference and how critical they are.”

The “decisional framework” is central to the PIPs experience. “Some students have confided in me that it has [made the difference] between buying a parking pass and choosing to park in our free lots and do some walking and get the PIPs steps.” The “extra incentive,” he explains, coaxes them to be more conscious of their choices. “It’s also something that they can take out into their own personal lives after they graduate,” he elaborates. “So, while I think the actions themselves are really beneficial…as beneficial is instilling the decisional framework in students at an early age.”

Before he knew much about PIPs, Cale was hesitant to have yet another app on his phone, wondering how much time it would take to set up and whether it would be “clunky.” Now, finding PIPs intuitive and easy to use, when talking to new students, he says, “’You need to download this right now.’ I usually will get at least a segment of students who will be downloading [the app] at the table with their parents looking over their shoulder, but it’s a great thing because it gets them enthusiastic about where they’re sending their kids to school.”

“[PIPs] can be the difference maker for students and their families,” Cale extols. “I really love to show them that there are opportunities here to add to the quality of your education AND make a difference while mitigating your financial cost.”

Profile prepared by Wendy Gordon
President, PIPs Education Fund

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