NEWBERRY, FL--(Marketwire - April 17, 2008) - A team of five students from Newberry High School will be celebrating this Earth Day. Not only have they done their part to protect the planet, they've also emerged as one of only 14 first place teams throughout the country who have each won $50,000 in the Lexus Environmental Challenge, a national competition designed by Lexus and Scholastic to educate and empower teens to think big about possible solutions that could make a positive impact on the environment.

Newberry High School will receive a grant for $10,000, the teacher advisor will get a $5,000 grant, and the students will share $35,000 in scholarships. Throughout the seven-month-long environmental education program and contest, more than $1 million in grants and scholarships have been awarded.

"When we introduced this challenge, we really had no idea what kind of programs the students would dream up," said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager. "Well, now we know they're not afraid to dream big, and act on those dreams. We were amazed at all the teams' innovative ideas, their ingenuity and their pure passion for the topics they chose to address. It's exciting to see these young people discover their voices and learn they have the power to make a difference."

Newberry High School's team "Newberry Environmental Girls" focused their Final Challenge efforts on land resources and sustainability. To educate individuals about personal sustainability practices, the students developed a curriculum on the topic. They notified more than 1,000 high school teachers across the nation about the curriculum's availability, and it was tested at two local high schools. The team also established a "Green Ribbon Week" celebrating sustainable practices and further informing and encouraging others to do their part for the environment in Alachua County. In addition, they launched a reusable bag giveaway at five stores, which quickly turned into an incentive that drove people to shop at those particular stores.

"During the entire program, the students have been working, not for the reward, but for making a difference in the world," said Cynthia Holland, the team's teacher advisor. "Many times, the girls have commented about how they felt empowered because they were helping educate others and bringing about environmental change. Even though the challenge is over, the girls are still working. The Alachua County Waste Management has given the girls another 500 bags to give away at an event where they will provide information to the public, the Alachua County Library wants the girls to do a presentation and give away bags to the library patrons, and they've also been asked to go to the local elementary and middle school to give presentations on recycling!"

The final winners were selected from 55 teams that qualified for this Final Challenge by winning in one or more of the four previous Challenges that were held from September to February. These initial Challenges, addressing land, air, water and climate, asked teams to take a stand for the environment in their local community and winning teams in these categories each won $3,000. The Final Challenge required teams to reach beyond the local community and inspire environmental action around the world through innovative ideas that were communicated to a wide audience.

The Lexus Environmental Challenge will enter its second year in fall 2008. Teachers and students are encouraged to visit to view all the winning entries and to learn how they can take part in next year's program.

Contact Information: Media Contact: Sandra Levy (562) 391-1516