Tri-Creek School Corporation launched an 8th grade student piloted, project-based learning initiative that differentiates this Lake County school district as one that emphasizes problem-solving skills, said Debra Howe, Ph.D. Superintendent, Tri-Creek. This alternative energy project grew from a 90 panel solar array to an astonishing 6,600 solar panels that provides energy for three elementary and one middle school, said Dr. Howe, named 2016 Empowering Woman of the Year by South Shore Clean Cities. Last Thursday, the school awarded a contract for this project with an electrical energy savings forecast of $250,000 annually. This rural district provides a highly competitive public education program that serves of 3,300 students from the southern third of Lake County. Perhaps no better example is Apple recognizing Tri-Creek with their Apple Distinguished Program Award for 2015 – 2017. “Our staff works hard to ensure our students gain knowledge, skills, and real world experience,” she said. Tri-Creek is building a 12,000 sq. ft. advanced manufacturing facility at the high school campus to advance automotive, welding, and other technical trades so they are competitive as they enter the workforce. Tri-Creek also launched the Opportunity Center program as an alternative to suspension and expulsion which boosts graduation rates over 98%. “Dr. Howe’s vision is to give students the skills, knowledge and connection to the world around them,” said Frank Szczepanski, nominator.