Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Land O'Lakes High junior is student winner of Governor's Serve to Preserve: Green School Award

LAND O'LAKES — Matt Mooney couldn't believe it when they called his name.

"There was actually this other kid who made this biodiesel project. I thought his thing was pretty intricate, so I didn't really know," said Matt, a 16-year-old junior in Land O'Lakes High School's International Baccalaureate program.

But when the student winner of the Governor's Serve to Preserve: Green School Award was announced late Wednesday, Matt had taken the first-ever honor.

"It was pretty amazing," said Matt, who got a plaque and a $1,500 check.

Matt won for his three-year-old effort to collect enough recycled cans to pay for building a home for Habitat for Humanity. Last month, he surpassed the 1 million can mark, putting him about one-quarter to one-third of the way to his goal (depending on the value of aluminum).

"We're making progress," said Matt's dad, Wayne Mooney. "It's nice that these kinds of efforts can be appreciated, not only from a Habitat for Humanity perspective but also from the environmental point of view."

On Earth Day in April, Gov. Charlie Crist announced the new awards, saying the future of Florida depends on two things: a clean environment and successful children.

"Protecting the environment, increasing student learning, saving our schools money by improving energy efficiencies — all at the same time — is a smart decision from every direction," Crist said.

Matt started his project when he was 13, too young to work on a Habitat construction crew but eager to help. Habitat for Humanity had just started its recycling initiative, and he jumped into it headfirst, collecting cans from construction sites near his Dade City home.

As he gathered cans, he also gained attention from local media. As a result, his support network grew to include schools, golf courses, churches and other organizations.

"He and his family have almost single-handedly helped to jump-start our effort," said Christiana Swanson, recycling coordinator for East Pasco Habitat for Humanity. "They really helped it grow from small-scale to what it is now."

The group collects 800 pounds of cans monthly, she said, with 29 donation sites in Dade City, San Antonio and Zephyrhills.

"What they've done to help us is amazing," Swanson said.

Matt — who plans to give half of his award money to Habitat's recycling fund and put the other half toward college — said he just was looking for a way to help.

"It's kind of nasty sometimes, but it's worth it," he said. "My goal when we started was to build a house. I had no idea how much effort it would require. I'm going to try to get it done by the time I graduate."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

Land O'Lakes High junior is student winner of Governor's Serve to Preserve: Green School Award 10/08/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 8, 2009 8:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. PolitiFact takes on big health care question: Does GOP bill cut Medicaid?


    Politics and math don't always get along, and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway raised a common complaint about how people talk about the future of Medicaid spending under the Senate Republican health care bill.

    Alice Jacobs, 90, at Dogwood Village, a nonprofit county-owned nursing home in Orange, Va., on June 23. Medicaid, targeted by Republicans' health care bill, pays for most of the 1.4 million elderly people in nursing homes, some of whom do not know they are on it. (Khue Bui/The New York Times)
  2. Higher Social Security payouts help Florida post a big jump in personal income

    Personal Finance

    Personal income grew 1.3 percent in Florida in the first quarter of this year, a four-way tie among all states for second-fastest growth behind Idaho.

  3. Gov. Scott in Washington as health care debate intensifies


    Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday began a daylong series of meetings in Washington on health care, saying he wants to ensure Florida gets its share of Medicaid funding while praising parts of the Senate GOP’s Obamacare replacement.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at Creative Sign Designs in Tampa on June 13.
  4. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo in Parkshore Plaza on the market for $1.5 million. {Courtesy of Amy Lamb/Native House Photography]
  5. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The mayor's race has been making headlines for nearly two months as Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker have been making speeches, pressing the flesh at fundraisers and gathering their ground forces for an election battle that has already broken fundraising records.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.