Livingstone student honored for environmental efforts
By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Executives from Toyota and local officials honored a Livingstone College freshman Friday for his efforts to make the campus more environmentally friendly.
Stephen Graddick IV of Charlotte won the Toyota Green Initiative Contest sponsored by the automaker.
During the CIAA Tournament in Charlotte in March, Toyota sponsored the contest to see which student from one of the 13 CIAA schools could devise the most innovative plan to make his or her college or university more environmentally friendly.
The company awarded Graddick its grand prize for his plan of hosting a Green Awareness Week to improve sustainability at Livingstone College.
“Stephen, who is a freshman at Livingstone, beat out more than 200 entries,” said James H. Colon, vice president of product communications at Toyota. “His real innovation and dedication won Livingstone College $10,000 worth of trees that you’ll be planting there.”
Graddick now gets to drive a 2011 Toyota Prius hybrid for a year. And Livingstone College gets a tree park, complete with benches.
The company executives, college students and other officials helped begin the park by planting 20 trees on the campus. The 13 red maples and seven red oaks came from Godley’s Garden Center and Nursery in Salisbury.
“We at Toyota are encouraged by your support of our environmental stewardship platform and we’re encouraged by your efforts in conservation,” Colon said to the gathered students.
Graddick worked as a brand ambassador for the automaker when he first came to Livingstone, encouraging students to join its green initiative and enter the contest. It wasn’t long before inspiration struck.
“I saw refrigerators being thrown away, microwaves being thrown away and so many bottles and cans,” he said. “Over the summer, I would go through the neighborhood and recycle cans to make some change on the side… We can do the same thing here.”
A drop box is now available in the college’s student union building, and Graddick plans to add more across the campus. The boxes not only accept standard recyclables but also used clothing and electronic goods.
To promote the drop boxes and encourage environmentalism at Livingstone, Graddick and other students created Green Awareness Week. It included educational video assemblies, a campus cleanup and a health and wellness program.
“It feels so good having students involved and so excited about my dream — my idea that kind of came to life on campus,” Graddick said after the ceremony. He said he is honored to be recognized for it.
Also attending the event was Lance Gross, an actor in Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne” TV series. Gross is a celebrity ambassador for Toyota’s Green Initiative campaign and served as a judge in the contest.
“Stephen put in a lot of hard work, so he deserves everything he gets,” Gross said. “The biggest thing is just him spreading the word about going green and educating everybody about adopting a green lifestyle.”
State Alexander, Livingstone’s executive assistant to the president and director of public relations, said students who get involved in ideas like Graddick’s will graduate and become “change agents” in the world.
“This is quite an honor for us and indicative of the students we have here at Livingstone,” Alexander said.
Salisbury Mayor Pro Tempore Maggie Blackwell also praised Graddick’s work.
“Salisbury is Tree City USA, and we believe in being green,” Blackwell said, “so we applaud your efforts and we’re very proud of you.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.