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President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) 2018 Winners

Each year, EPA recognizes national winners of the President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA)

Winners by year: 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002

EPA Region 1:

Generation Growers
Ipswich Middle & High Schools' Green Team
Team Members: Ava B., Ella B., Lila B., Claire B., Amelia C., Madeleine C., Beckett D., Teaghan D., Colby F., Isabelle G., Teddy G., Lydia H., Michael H., Keigan I., Annie J., Carina J., Emma K., Sinead K., Evan K., Spencer M., Lucy M., Addison P., Joey P., Melanie P., Gabby R., Stella S., Brooke S., Ellie S., Natalie W., Olivia W., Nell W.

The Ipswich Green Team,  composed of students from grades 6 through 12 from Massachusetts, had a vision to develop a partnership between Ipswich schools and the greater community that would enrich the lives of people through local agriculture. The effort, called "Generation Growers," brought elderly adults and other community members together with youth to create green space on a quarter-acre public fruit and vegetable garden. The primary goals for the Ipswich Green Team were to increase community knowledge, exposure, and access to healthy food. They accomplished their goals by learning about and teaching every aspect of food production, including sustainable practices such as water barrel conservation and solar energy, concepts of pollination, and soil science for planting. With this initiative, the Ipswich Green Team increased community participation by encouraging people to go outside, working side by side, and harvesting and eating the fruits and vegetables that were planted and harvested together. The garden continues to be used as an educational resource for teachers and community groups to learn about food waste and production, pollination, climate change, the water cycle, composting, and how to live and work together with the common goal of creating local, healthy food for their community.

EPA Region 2:

Light and Hope for Puerto Rico
by Salvador C.
Puerto Rico

Salvador is a 10th grader from San Juan, Puerto Rico. In response to Hurricane Maria's destructive impact on Puerto Rico, Salvador created the Light and Hope for Puerto Rico initiative. The project's mission was to purchase   and distribute solar lamps and hand-powered washing machines to the most affected communities on the island. To raise funding for the project, an online crowdfunding platform was launched with a goal of $100,000 that would be used to positively impact the lives of 1,000 families in the coastal town of Loiza, which was decimated by both Hurricanes Irma and Maria. In the end, Light and Hope for Puerto Rico was able to raise over $160,000 and the funds were used to assist 3,500 families in 17 different municipalities around the island. Under Salvador's Light and Hope for Puerto Rico initiative, environmentally friendly products were selected for purchase and distribution, which helped reduce water and electricity consumption. The next phase of the initiative is to implement solar energy systems on firefighting stations across the island.

EPA Region 3:

Friends of the Earth
Wyoming East High School
Team Members: Sebastian B., Hannaha B., Destany B., Zoe C., Myranda G., Emily L., Hailey M., Taylor M., David S., Nathan S., Hailey S., Brenda S., Amy V., Angela V., Bryce W.
West Virginia

The Friends of the Earth is composed of 15 students from Wyoming East High School who live in a rural West Virginia community that does not have a landfill or recycling center. The team realized that their community had a large amount  of recyclable trash, but there was no place to take it. To address this issue, the Friends of the Earth team created a recycling program at their school to limit the waste. The program began with a collection of aluminum cans and quickly expanded to include Type 1 and Type 2 plastics. To keep their community informed about their project's goals and the environmental impact of municipal waste, the Friends of the Earth created commercials, presentations, flyers, and posters; posted information on bulletin boards; and organized award ceremonies. The students have also set up booths at community events and school "prep rallies" to promote awareness and educate residents and students about recycling. As a result of their efforts, Friends of the Earth has recycled 12,296 pounds of trash and 3,000 plastic bags. The team has also successfully distributed recycling bins throughout the community, and team members collect the materials for recycling.

EPA Region 4:

Bobcat Up! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Belle Terre Elementary School
Team Members: Ben D., Kayla H., Eva L., Gabriela P., and Sabrina R.

Students from Florida's 5th grade Belle Terre Elementary School identified littering and the lack of recycling bins in some classrooms as an issue at their school campus. To solve this issue, they created Project BURRR: Bobcat Up! Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. As part of this initiative, students take part in weekly BURRR project activities. Once a week, the BURRR  recycling team uses their recess time to pick up litter from the school's campus grounds. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the team collects the recyclable materials from each classroom and takes it to the recycling containers at the back of the school. One day per week, the group meets to maintain the school's park and other areas of the campus. Project BURRR has inspired students at Belle Terre Elementary School to be environmental stewards in their community.

The Fishes Wishes
by Ryan M.

Ryan is a 12-year-old from Florida who has been helping keep the ocean clean for seven years. His family often went to the beach where he would find lots of trash along the shore, so he started bringing bags along to pick up the trash himself. While on a trip with his family, he saw some older kids put a tire in the ocean. Ryan read books and learned about how pollution was harming many animals. That is when Ryan started "The Fishes Wishes" project. As part of the project, Ryan made magnets and ornaments out of driftwood and sold them at local fairs and shops. He donated all the profits to the Ocean Conservancy. He later wrote a book called, "Puffy the Pufferfish Saves the Ocean" and donated all the proceeds to ocean conservation groups. Ryan is currently selling keychains and suncatchers made from recycled wood, stones and natural materials. All the money raised is donated to ocean conservation. As of 2018, he has donated over $9,000 as a result of his dedicated efforts.

EPA Region 5:

Recycling Trailblazer
by Lane W.

Lane, an 11-year-old from rural Ohio, started recycling paper in his 2nd grade classroom. The following year, with the help of a newly created recycling club, Recycling Trailblazer, he expanded recycling to the entire school. He received $90 in donations from parents, which he used to purchase recycling bins. The recycling club also sponsored a student challenge to motivate students to do what they could to have a positive impact in their community and on the environment through recycling. Lane also recruited additional students to continue the club when current members transitioned to middle school. The Recycling Trailblazer was recognized for outstanding achievement by the school superintendent and school board members. Lane is now in middle school himself, where he has a recycling club of more than 40 members. Lane's new vision is to expand the recycling program to the high school and a local church.

Aquatic Robotics/Invasive Species Education
Big Stone County 4-H Aquatic Robotics
Team Members: Robert A., Zakari A., Brooklyn C., James C., Jack D., Arnold J., Ernest J., Kevin N., Carly O., and Kirby O.

The Aquatic Robotics team is composed of local high school students in Big Stone County, Minnesota with members ranging from 14 to 16 years in age. Their focus and concern for this project was Big Stone Lake which is widely used by  the community for fishing and recreation. The team worried that invasive species that had negatively impacted a nearby lake could invade Big Stone Lake and cause harm to the fishery, water quality, and overall use of the lake. To address their concern, the team created the "Be an Aquatic Superhero, Stop Those Water Hitchhikers" campaign to reduce the number of invasive species entering the lake. Interested citizens looked at different types of invasive and native species and learned to distinguish the difference between the two types. The team promoted the message of "Clean, Draining, and Drying" watercraft to prevent the spread of invasive species and distributed "Be an Aquatic Superhero" towels that fishermen used to clean their boats and prevent the spread of invasive species. The team created their own public service announcement that aired 3 times per week for 6 months. Additionally, the team presented information to schools, the local lake association, civic organizations, water festival attendees, and community members. More than 5,000 people have been reached through the team's efforts. Further, invasive species have yet to be found in Big Stone Lake.

EPA Region 6:

Harveyville Recycling Team
A.D. Harvey Elementary
Team Members: Ahmad A., Reyna B., Marley C., Jayleen E., Jamie G., Sophia G., Evelyn L., Aiden M., Mario S., Zevin S., Kaitlyn S., Estrella T.

The children of Harvey Elementary in Texas, also known as "Harveyville," decided to make their campus as "green" as possible. To accomplish this, a team of 12 dedicated 3rd and 4th grade students created and managed a recycling center at their school, wrote essays, and gave presentations to peers, parents, and city officials about the life span of materials and the importance of recycling. The students successfully convinced the school cafeteria staff to get rid of disposable trays and other items that added to landfill waste. Additionally, the students persuaded their peers to stop using plastic water bottles and to start using the school's water fountains. They also collected and recycled more than 300,000 plastic bags in the City of Kingsville. In addition to recycling, the Harveyville Recycling Team also created a commercial to further the efforts of the City of Kingsville's "Keep Kingsville Beautiful" public awareness effort, and challenged residents to take selfies while recycling to be posted on the City's "Star Drive" in Harveyville.

Northern Bobwhite Quail Reintroduction Project
by Trevor B.

Trevor's environmental conservation project, Northern Bobwhite Quail Reintroduction, focused on the decline of  the Northern Bobwhite Quail population in Texas and their re-introduction into the endangered Texas Blackland Prairies. Trevor discovered that less than 0.01 percent of the world's original tallgrass prairies are remaining and felt moved to save the Texas Blackland Prairie. He began by removing invasive species, planting native grasses, and re-introducing wildlife, such as the Northern Bobwhite Quail, into the Prairie. He chose the quail, because the Texas quail population has declined by 82 percent in the last 50 years - primarily due to the loss of habitat. After consulting with field and academic experts, Trevor learned the science of incubating, hatching and raising quail in his own house. Trevor's vision initially started with one conservation project on one prairie. It has since blossomed into ongoing service and research projects at multiple prairies with national funding on a public platform. He has utilized hundreds of volunteers and dedicated thousands of hours to preserve the Texas Blackland Prairies.

EPA Region 7:

Getting Markers Out of Landfills
by Joslyn S.

Joslyn's goal was to prevent markers, highlighters, and dry erase markers from becoming landfill waste. Recognizing a need to recycle the thousands of markers used by students at her school, Joslyn started the Getting Markers Out of Landfills project by partnering with Crayola Color Cycle to get free recycling at her school. As part of her project, Joslyn purchased collection bins with money she earned from doing chores and partnered with teachers at her school to have the collection bins placed in their classrooms. Joslyn decorated the collection bins to generate interest. She frequently checks the bins and counts the markers. Once counted, Joslyn ships the markers to Crayon Color Cycle, where they are recycled into clean- burning fuel. Due to the success of her project, Joslyn has been able to expand the number of collection bins to include two public schools, one private school, a library, a 4-H Extension office, a local moms group, and a local daycare. Since starting the project in October 2017, Joslyn has collected, counted, and shipped 6,331 markers to be recycled, diverting 126.62 pounds of markers from the landfill.

Pollinator Paradise
Festus RVI School District Quest Program
Team Members: Drake B., Evan C., Zachary B., Peyton B., Abigail B., Riley B., Katherine C., Wyatt C., Carlei C., Elaine C., Lucas D., Makayla D., Calvin E., Zoe E., Grant F., Lindy F., Alexander G., Elijah G., Zachariah G., Carson G., Evan G., Madison G., Cohen H., Katie H., Alexandria H., Haley H., Josephine H., Joseph H., Cale H., Rose I., William J., Chase K., Eliana K., Peyton K., Ashton K., Alexander K., James K., Gwendolyn K., Gavin L., Caiden M., Colby M., Jack M., Elsa M., James M., Hope M., Liam O., Landry P., Sawyer P., Sierra P., Katelyn R., Jackson R., Karter R., William R., Bryson R., Alex R., Will R., Henry R., Audri S., Abigail S., Isaac S., Dakota S., Jillian S., Vincent S., Lilian S., Landon S., Kyah S., Joshua S., Hallie S., Henry S., Noah T., Cohen T., Emma V., Gage W., Cason W., Liliana W., Caiden W., Kalie W., Gracie W., Annabelle W., Mason W., Connor Z.

Eighty-two students ranging from 1st to 8th grade at Festus Intermediate School in Missouri created the Pollinator Paradise project. The students wanted to impact the ongoing mosquito problem at West City Park, a favorite and valuable resource for the Festus community. The students researched natural pest control and learned about natural predators of mosquitos, including the endangered Indiana bat. The students worked together with the City of Festus to build and install homes for natural predators, which included Indiana bats, Mason bees, Purple Martins, hummingbirds, and Monarch butterflies. They also learned that the City of Festus was in the migration path of the Monarch butterfly. Butterflies feed on milkweed, which is pollinated by Mason bees. Mason bees do not sting and were considered perfect pollinators for the park. As the students worked to revive the natural pollinators in their community, they were also resolving the mosquito issue at West City Park.

EPA Region 8:

Green Team Superheroes
Wilmot Elementary
Team Members: Aiden A., Brady D., Henry E., Jackson L., Alyssa M., Madison M., Annikah R., Reagan R., Samuel S., Campbell T., Julianne T., Dillon V., Genevieve W.

The Green Team Superheroes of Wilmot Elementary in Colorado are a group of 4th and 5th graders who received the Eco- School's USA Silver Award for reducing their school's energy consumption. Each Superhero was assigned a classroom to lead and monitor while they conducted energy audits and implemented school-wide energy saving contests. Light meters were used to determine how much light was being used in each classroom. The students found that most of the classrooms were over lit. Then, using plug load meters, they found that too many electronic devices that were not being used were plugged in, therefore, taking up phantom energy. They created an action plan that led to the removal of almost two-thirds of the classroom lights and teachers committing to turn off their classroom lights more frequently. The Green Team also encouraged their classrooms to take on the issue of waste pollution by reducing the consumption and waste of food, paper, and plastic bottles.

Development of a Novel Tool for Monitoring Soil Health and Contamination
by Kylan J.

Kylan from Fossil Ridge High School in Colorado developed a bio-electrochemical system called BioRemeter to determine microbial activities in soil. Soil is an important resource and microbial respiration is an important indicator of biodegradation of contaminants and soil health in general. Current methods for evaluating microbial respiration measure carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from microbial metabolisms within soil. These methods are usually time consuming and expensive. Kylan's bio-electrochemical system determines microbial activities in soil without the technical issues faced in measuring CO2. BioRemeter assesses soil health and soil contaminant biodegradation by monitoring microbial activities with electrons. Clay was used as a test soil for Kylan's experiments. Results showed voltage measurements from BioRemeter correlate strongly with microbial activities, readings from BioRemeter were more sensitive than respiration methods,    and BioRemeter assesses soil health and contamination at a lower cost than conventional respiration methods. A patent application has been filed for the BioRemeter.

EPA Region 9:

WhaleManji: Welcome to the Ocean -- an integrated project to help support the Humpback Whale
Mount Madonna School
Team Members: Electra A., Luke C., Rocco C., Robert C., Tej D., Kinsey D., Samantha K., Kadence L., Emilia L., Luc M., Isabelle M., Izaak O., Madison O., Cisco R., Cavan S., Elyse W., Nash W.

The 5th grade class at Mount Madonna School in Watsonville, California, began the 2017-18 school year by exploring local environmental issues they wanted to solve. After considering many different potential topics, the class chose to focus their efforts on the conservation of the Pacific Humpback Whale. To better understand these marine mammals, student teams studied and worked with local field experts to write reports, create display boards, and present information about the species such as its habitat, threats, and current conservation efforts. During their studies, the students discovered that ocean plastic pollution was a significant threat to humpback whales. To reduce the amount of plastics flowing through their local watershed to the Monterey Bay, students participated in beach cleanups and letter-writing campaigns to elected officials regarding plastic straws, produced a creative short movie titled "WhaleManji: Welcome to the Ocean" that raised $1,800 for conservation, and developed educational materials in Spanish to share with students in Costa Rica. Additionally, the class participated in the Monterey Bay Aquarium's 2018 Plastic Pollution Summit and the annual Monterey Whale Festival where they shared their project information and promoted humpback whale conservation.

The Healthy Freedom Campaign
Earth Peace
Team Members: Lila C., Zion F., Felix H., Kohana P., and Nikita T.

Earth Peace, a non-profit in California, was founded by Lila in 2012 when she was 10 years old. In 2015, Lila started the Healthy Freedom Campaign for a plant-based meal choice every day of the school year in the nation's 2nd largest public-school district, Los Angeles Unified in California. The Healthy Freedom Campaign's goal was for every public school to offer a fully plant-based meal choice option, every day at lunch. Lila organized doctors, experts, athletes, and fellow students to start a massive campaign to change the delivery of food to fellow students in K-12 Los Angeles Unified schools. Lila also engaged filmmakers, celebrities, universities, government agencies, and secured a $20,000 grant to create a website dedicated to promoting plant-based school lunches. In 2017, the Los Angeles Unified School Board voted to implement the Healthy Freedom Campaign's objective and rolled out a pilot of the new lunches in seven schools. Today the program has expanded to more than 80 schools.

EPA Region 10:

Worm Soup and Growing Green
Broad View Elementary Green Club
Team Members: Kamryn H., Samantha H., Aaron L., and Emelyn P.

The Broad View Elementary Green Club in Washington created the project, "Worm Soup and Growing Green" to reduce the amount of waste generated at the school during lunch; spread kindness and beautify their community; teach students about gardening and plants; and make the planet a better place to live. To start their project, the students conducted extensive research and performed a waste audit. To achieve their goal of reducing waste produced at their school, the students installed worm bins built by a local community business to compost the food scraps from their cafeteria. The students also convinced the school's food service provider to switch from plastic sporks to metal-ware to limit the amount of plastic that could end up in the ocean. The students then started a school garden using the soil created by the worms. In planting the garden, students purposefully included flowers in the garden rather than just growing edible plants. The flowers were grown to make flower arrangements to spread kindness at a local retirement community. Over the summer, the students and their families kept the garden watered. In the fall, they all enjoyed the blooming garden. This project helped Broad View Elementary School become recognized as a 2018 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, and the Oak Harbor School District is being recognized in 2019 as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon District.

Restoration and Preservation of Deer Creek in the Aftermath of the Beaver Creek Fire
by Hunter B.

Hunter founded the organization, Deer Creek Nature, Inc., in the aftermath of the 2013 Beaver Creek Fire in Idaho. Hunter was 9 years old when the fire took place. The fire, which almost destroyed his home, decimated more than 114,000 acres of the National Sawtooth Forest. After the fire, there was an unanswered need for research and restoration of the land. Hunter gathered experts from the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help answer his research questions. Community volunteers helped with restoration efforts, and Hunter created a non-profit organization to help restore the land and to educate youth about protecting this ecosystem. He spent his spring and summer holidays removing thousands of invasive species, he has also planted more than 1,000 native plants and collected data on the ecosystem's recovery from the fire. Hunter has successfully helped rebuild the natural habitats of the area that now harbors new wildlife. In 2016, he created a summer ecological program for youth interested in learning how to protect the ecosystem and over 20 students have since attended his summer program. He has also leveraged his impact through the power of storytelling and won an award for his first short story, "Nature Calls," published in 2018 in the magazine Skipping Stones.

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