ASHEBORO, NC - Three Asheboro High School Zoo School students have advanced as finalists in the Polar Bears International Project Polar Bear contest.

The students (Cameron Kania, Kaitlin Thompson and Julie Hodgin) make up one of four teams chosen nationally. Other finalists are from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The goal of the contest is for teens to raise awareness in their communities and to conserve energy by reducing carbon dioxide. This year's contest participants prevented more than 10 million pounds of carbon dioxide from being released nationally into the atmosphere.

"I am so proud of our students for setting out to make a difference in our community," said Heather Soja, lead teacher in Science at the Zoo School. "Their creativity and energy is inspiring and should remind us all that young people can lead the change that we need to see in our world on behalf of the environment and the polar bear."

Grand Prize winners of the contest, sponsored by LowePro, win a trip to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, to see polarbears in the wild. SeaWorld San Diego is hosting the awards ceremony, offering free admission to all finalists and providing a Beluga Encounter to the second-place team.

The winning team will be announced April 30, 2011.

The local students partnered with a local energy company to learn how to do energy audits and then conducted these audits to help businesses and individuals cut back on energy usage. Participants gave presentations to faculty groups in Asheboro city schools, attended energy meetings, prepared a video (Power Down Asheboro) for social media networks and raised awareness of things the community can do to reduce the carbon footprint.

Additionally, the students planted trees, recycled phone books and raised money for the North Carolina Zoo's "Pennies for Polar Bears" campaign.

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee Freeman, Secretary; Beverly E. Perdue, Governor.