Contact: Linda Topoleski, 412-389-0410, or Kyra Harmanos at 412-281-2345

Or: Enterprise Charter School, Team Coach Rebecca Fast, 716-855-2114


Enterprise Charter School Girls in Buffalo Receive National Award for Addressing an Emerging Issue of Critical Importance: Childhood Obesity

Students Are Tackling Obesity with a Tasty, Healthy Teen-Tested Cookie in Packaging that Encourages Exercise


WALT DISNEY WORLD, FL — June 23, 2004 — Four girls from Enterprise Charter School in Buffalo, NY have received national recognition as part of the Christopher Columbus Awards, a nationwide program that challenges middle-school students to explore opportunities for positive change in their communities. Seventh-graders Melissa Hill and Timisha Madlock, eighth-graders Elise Stevens and Chanté Mozee, and their teacher Rebecca Fast, received a one-time Judges' Award for addressing an emerging issue of critical importance: childhood obesity.

With childhood obesity on the rise to near epidemic proportions — the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 15% of teens are obese — this team of girls decided to take action. After surveying nearly 200 of their peers and finding that more than half have a sweet tooth, they decided to develop a healthy and tasty cookie to replace the high-sugar snacks teens typically eat. To take their idea a step further, they packaged their cookie in a specially designed wrapper that also encourages kids to exercise with a new version of the food pyramid that includes physical activity as one of the daily requirements.

Photo of Buffalo Team

Judges' Award Winners— Buffalo, NY
Left to right: Chante Mozee, Timisha Madlock, Coach Rebecca Fast, Elise Stevens and Melissa Hill.


The girls competed against more than 1,200 students from across the U.S. and will receive U.S. Savings Bonds worth several thousand dollars for their efforts. Greg Hale, Vice President of Design & Engineering and Regulatory Compliance for Walt Disney Company, one of the competition judges, presented the award to the team at a special ceremony this evening.

The students worked with a food scientist at Rich's Products to develop and test several versions of their low-sugar, low-carb, low-calorie chocolate chip cookie which contains mini chocolate chips and is sweetened with fruit pectin. Their final product tested equal or superior against its high-sugar competitor — the leading chocolate chip cookie brand — among teens in the Buffalo area.

Three other teams received awards at the national competition.

$25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant — Pottstown, PA Area Middle School Students — With nearly 10% of children in the United States allergic to peanuts and dyes, this team of four students from St Aloysius, Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Wyndcroft School, developed their own handheld scanner system that shoppers can use to quickly and accurately read product labels to flag eight different allergens that go by up to 72 different names depending on the manufacturer. They received the competition's top prize — the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant — to turn their idea into a real product.

Gold Medal Award — Hawken School, Lyndhurst, OH — Concerned that a 12,000-year-old population of brook trout is endangered due to toxic runoff in the watershed, these students developed a plan to educate area residents about the consequences of their daily actions and to motivate them to change. As part of their education campaign, the students asked area residents to sign pledges to reduce point source pollution in their yards and neighborhoods, they tacked warning stickers on the drains alerting residents not to use the sewers as a dumping source and they educated residents about developing riparian buffer zones in their yards to contain the impact of fertilizers and other yard chemicals.

Gold Medal Award — Hillel Academy, Fairfield, CT — Every year, more than 200,000 children are treated in emergency rooms for playground related injuries, 70% of which are caused by falls on tough surfaces. Statistics like these prompted this team to test and develop what they consider to be the safest and cleanest playground surface — recycled rubber. By dropping eggs, growing mold and conducting shoe invasion tests with different playground surfaces, the students determined that rubber would absorb the impact of falls, stay clean of mold and weeds, be most accessible to handicapped visitors, and be less likely to track into childrenís shoes and inside buildings.

Health, Safety, the Environment Top Students' List of Concerns

The most pressing community issues among this year's nearly 1,200 entries were health, the environment, and safety with special emphasis on the needs of people with disabilities.

Competition Attracts Teams of 'Everyday' Kids — Including an Unusually High Percentage of Girls and Minorities

More than half of the entrants to the Christopher Columbus Awards are girls, an unusually high number for a science competition, and a statistic that competition officials believe is linked to the teamwork aspect, which plays to a strength of middle-school-age girls. More than a fourth are from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, statistics that are higher than those of most science competitions.

"In a competition like this, middle school students gain critical life skills and discover, to their absolute amazement, that they truly can make a difference in the world," said Robert J. Glovitz, chairman of the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation. "They've seen that if they have a workable idea, and present it clearly, that very often people will listen and encourage them."

National Panel of Judges

Judges have included nationally prominent scientists, journalists, teachers and community leaders who have worked with children. This year's panel included:

Greg Hale — Vice President, Design & Engineering and Regulatory Compliance, Walt Disney World

Dr. M. Ian Phillips — Vice President for Research & Professor, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL

Robert J. Glovitz — General Manager, EFI-ADS Communications, Inc., Scottsdale, AZ

Dr. Maria Lombardo — Educational Consultant, Rockville, MD

Rosalyn Queen Alonso — Former Chair, Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, Flemington, WV

Eight finalist teams won an all-expense-paid trip to the Walt Disney World® Resort, where they competed in the Christopher Columbus Awards' National Championship Week, June 19-24. Rewards included U.S. Savings Bonds for Gold Medal Award winners. In addition, the Pottstown team will bring home the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant to help bring its idea to life in the community. The finalists also attended the Christopher Columbus Academy, a custom-designed educational program. Conducted by scientists, engineers and educators, the program reveals the science and technology behind the thrills and excitement of Epcot®.

For a complete list of finalists and their entries, visit

Positive Community Change

The Christopher Columbus Awards challenge teams of middle-school students to explore and discover opportunities for positive change in their communities using science and technology. The program is now in its eighth year and has attracted more than 12,000 students from diverse backgrounds all across the U.S. The program is sponsored by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation with cooperation from the National Science Foundation and is endorsed by the National Middle School Association.

About the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation

The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation is an independent Federal government agency created by Congress in 1992 to encourage and support research, study and labor designed to produce new discoveries in all fields of endeavor for the benefit of mankind. The Foundation has established Frontiers of DiscoveryWork in Process and Discover the Future programs that recognize "cutting edge" innovation, innovative ideas of America's youth and honor teachers. These programs include the Frank Annunzio Award, Homeland Security Awards, Christopher Columbus Awards, National Gallery for America's Young Inventors and the Freida J. Riley Teacher Award. Please visit the Foundationís website at for more information on the programs it supports.

For more information on the Christopher Columbus Awards, call 1-800-291-6020 or visit