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News Releases from Region 06

EPA Celebrates Earth Day and Environmental Education: Houston, Texas, Students Win President’s Environmental Youth Award

Contact Information: 
Jennah Durant (
214 665-2200

DALLAS – (April 22, 2020) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), is pleased to announce the recipients of the  President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). Among the winners are Annie Zhu and Shirley Zhu, students at Bellaire High School in Houston, Texas, who coordinated with local groceries and bakeries to redistribute excess food to people in neighborhoods lacking access to these stores.

“As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we are also celebrating nearly 50 years of environmental education that fosters awareness about conservation issues, and helps communities make informed, responsible decisions about their environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We are also honoring dedicated educators who spark enthusiasm in our youth to develop a love and respect for the environment and find solutions for issues that impact our air, water and land.”

“Shirley and Annie Zhu, along with their volunteer team, show how taking action can solve several problems at once,” said Regional Administrator Ken McQueen. “These innovative, hard-working students are turning every day into Earth Day, and helping fellow Houston community members in the process.”

Shirley and Annie founded Project Fresh Hub with the goals of reducing food waste and eliminating food deserts, which are areas that lack access to grocery stores or other sources of fresh, healthy food. The students collaborated with local groceries, bakeries, and food charities, and coordinated a group of 90 volunteers from three schools, to pick up, sort, and redistribute excess food at Fresh Hub market events. The students have organized 13 of these events since 2018, serving nearly 1,100 community members and saving 8,000 pounds of food from landfills. They also developed an app to help raise awareness of the events and promote healthy eating habits.

From across the country, 10 educators and 35 students are being recognized for their leadership and commitment to environmental education and environmental stewardship. This year, seven educators will receive the 2020 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators, and three educators will be recognized with an honorable mention distinction. Winning educators demonstrated leadership by integrating environmental education into multiple subjects and using topics such as healthy school environments, environmentally friendly agricultural practices, reducing ocean litter, gardening, recycling, or STEM to teach sustainability to K-12 students.

Additionally, 35 students who worked as a team or individually on 13 projects will receive the President’s Environmental Youth Award. Their stewardship projects, conducted in 2019, display a commitment to learning, to protecting natural resources, and to engaging their communities in environmental protection.


Since the establishment of the original Environmental Education Act of 1970, The President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) Program has recognized outstanding community-level environmental projects by K-12 youth for almost 50 years. Today, as part of the National Environmental Education Act of 1990, PEYA continues to promote awareness of natural resources and encourages positive community involvement.  Each year, PEYA honors a wide-variety of local-level projects developed by students, school classes, summer camp attendees and youth organizations to promote engagement in environmental stewardship and protection. Students in all 50 states and U.S. territories are invited to participate in the program.

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