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U.S. EPA honors Los Angeles, Calif., student with President’s Environmental Youth Award

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Soledad Calvino (

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) to Justin Sather, 9, of Los Angeles. This national award is presented each year to K-12 students who demonstrate the initiative, creativity, and problem-solving skills needed to address environmental problems and find sustainable solutions.

“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.”

“We’re proud to honor the next generation of young environmental leaders who are helping solve environmental challenges and create a more sustainable future,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “These students are making a real difference with far-reaching impacts in their communities and future generations.”

When third-grader Justin learned about declining frog populations, he was inspired through his work with the nonprofit Grades of Green to create a youth initiative called “For the Love of Frogs.” Justin raised money for frog conservation organizations, organized cleanups at a local wetland preserve and raised awareness through art and community outreach.

“Frogs are my favorite animal. When I learned frogs are becoming extinct it made me sad. I know frogs are telling us that the planet needs our help,” said student Justin Sather. “I want to be brave and work with people around the world to clean up the planet. Together we can change the world!”

Justin Sather with a collection of plastic caps he encouraged his community to save. Justin Sather with a collection of plastic caps he encouraged his community to save. On Earth Day 2019, an African environmental science student, Perise, contacted Justin to ask what he could do with thousands of plastic bottles he had collected. Justin reached out to his network for ideas and received dozens of upcycling suggestions from around the world. Justin shared his network’s suggestions with Perise and then put these ideas to work himself in California. Perise did the same in Cameroon, and, in the end, they transformed nearly 8,000 bottles into works of art, planters, and other items.

These ideas, known as the “Parallel Projects," became a daily and weekly collaboration. Supported by an Eco-Grant from Grades of Green, Justin continued this work to initiate an intercontinental collaboration of students in a series of projects involving plastic waste. Participants work in parallel, in their own countries, sharing methods and results with the goal of inspiring others and raising awareness of worldwide plastic pollution.

From across the country, 35 students were recognized for their remarkable efforts that promote environmental education and stewardship. The 35 student award recipients – who worked on teams or individually on 13 projects – each received the President’s Environmental Youth Award. Altogether, EPA received 76 project applications from 26 states.

Established by the 1990 National Environmental Education Act, the PEYA program promotes local environmental awareness among our nation’s youth and encourages positive community involvement.  EPA Headquarters works with staff located in EPA’s 10 regional offices in the selection of award recipients across the country.

To learn more about Justin and the other PEYA winners, visit:

For information on environmental education at EPA, visit:

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