peya

The Illick's Mill Does D.C.

On Wednesday, May 19th, students of the Illick’s Mill Project (IMP) dropped their garden shovels, grant proposals, and finishing paint and embarked to Washington, D.C. After a debacle where the group was split into three different trains at three different times, the class made its way (in segments!) to the hotel. The students broke off into smaller groups to see the city, their stomachs full of pizza and their legs ready to walk. My group and I walked from the hotel and down about a million blocks to the Lincoln Memorial. Abe was on his platform, sitting just as deliberately as always, and I felt a pacific energy omitted from everyone at the monument of union (no pun intended!). My friends and I turned to see two separate groups of our class heading towards of us. The power of the monument was in full force and we all were united under its amity.

I, as well as several other students of the Illick’s Mill, left Washington D.C. with a piece of the city. Judging from the bright eyes
and exhilarated faces after speaking in front of Lisa Jackson and our congressional representative, many IMP members began to consider governmental professions.

The entire project enjoyed a swanky neighborhood, Adams Morgan, for a Mediterranean night out on Thursday night. The group broke into smaller sections to once again indulge in the city where many made first time trips to the Jefferson Memorial and other local attractions.

The next morning, through the blistering heat students maintained their smiles as they walked to the big white building hidden beneath the trees. The students giggled to themselves when they saw a volleyball on the front yard; it was our own private look into the lives of the first family, and seemed like a intimate encounter. What I remember most about the president walking up the hill was the presidential swagger unlike anything I’ve ever seen. When we met, the president was devoid of pretentiousness, as he showed that he was honored to meet us, a group of 60 dripping, lovesick kids.

Because of the trip’s balance of rich education and fun, students were able to gain an inside look into the wonderful city that is D.C. The most effective representation of our trip can be quoted from an IMP student, “Overall, the Illick’s Mill Project’s trip to D.C. was
educational, ephemeral, and unforgettable.”

About the author: Niharika Pendurthi is a Illick’s Mill Project Member of the Class of 2011.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Warning About Warming

My experiences at the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) Ceremony in Washington D.C. were simply unforgettable. It was an unbelievable opportunity to share my knowledge with some of the most influential people in the nation. Some of the highlights of my entire experience were being able to meet and share my knowledge with Administrator Lisa Jackson, Philippe Cousteau, and the children from Earth’s Natural Force.

My project focused on the idea of environmental activism and sharing knowledge to inspire others to make an environmental difference. Seeing the interest that influential people such as Administrator Jackson and Philippe Cousteau had in not just my project but in others as well. It made me realize that the future generation is not alone in the battle to save our environment; on the contrary, there are many willing to support and encourage the efforts of today’s environmentalists – the 2009 PEYA winners.

Being able to share my knowledge with the children from Earth’s Natural Force was an amazing experience as well. Seeing their keen interest in my project gave me hope for the future beyond our generation. If we can inspire and enthuse as many people as possible to help our environment, then our Earth will be in good hands. My mission as an Earth Warrior is to provide the knowledge and enthusiasm that will propel our future into a better place. As Steve Droke said, “Knowledge is power and enthusiasm pulls the switch.”

The PEYA Award Ceremony was truly an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

About the Author: Pavane Gorrepati is a ssophmore at Rivermont Collegiate High School in Bettendorf, Iowa, and has won many awards based on her research projects.

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Bigfork Cave Club

We worked on four basic areas of conserving natural caves across the state of Montana. These areas include graffiti and trash removal from vandalized caves, monitoring of resources in caves in good condition, computerizing our data into ArcGIS, and a non-collective method of studying invertebrates. We chose to do this because the cave club started as a recreation club and then we noticed a lot of trash and graffiti in caves. As a result we decided to focus our club on the conservation of caves, which was just a stepping stone to more in depth cave conservation methods.

Overall the trip to Washington D.C. was an eye opening and life altering experience. We were able to meet many unique and interesting people from around the country, we even made a few friends. We met iconic figures such as President Barack Obama, Philippe Cousteau, and Xabier Arzuaga; this was all a great honor and a humbling experience. Besides meeting such amazing and highly renowned figures, we also were served food by a woman who had been starving in Ethiopia and were driven to the airport by a Somalian immigrant who was eternally grateful for government. These experiences made us realize how lucky we are to live in America.

This award meant a lot to us and the ceremony couldn’t have been better. Everyone was saying what an inspiration we were, but we were the ones who were truly inspired by everything that happened on the trip. The President’s Environmental Youth Award made us realize that our efforts are not in vain and that this is something that should be continued. PEYA was a defining moment in what we want to do with our futures. We both plan to incorporate conservation in our future careers with the conservation of coral reefs, caves, and all of the world’s natural resources.

About the Authors: Tia Bakker and Ernie Cottle are high school students in Big Fork, Montana. They are EPA Region 8’s President’s Environmental Youth Award recipients in 2009, and recently paid a visit to Washington, D.C. to receive their award from Administrator Jackson.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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EcoLogical

region10_09When we started our project in a small town called Homer, Alaska, we had no possible notion of what we were actually getting ourselves into. We were simply four young teenage girls truly wanting to alter the way our town was living. We wanted to see change, both in family homes and the general public.

We got our local middle school lunchroom to switch from using polystyrene trays to reusable plastic trays. We also introduced a “Tin Bin” to our local landfill and we held a community-wide “Trash into Fashion” show.

Then we won the President’s Environmental Youth Award and suddenly we were going to Washington, DC, to accept our award. When we flew over Washington, DC, we all looked at each other and grinned. Even after the plane touched the ground we kept asking each other if this was really happening.

Soon enough it was the Awards Ceremony. As we walked through the Willard Hotel, I remember thinking I had never seen such a beautiful place. It was like a palace. Everything was gold. Before the awards ceremony, we got to talk with Lisa Jackson, the Administrator of EPA. She was authentically interested in what we did, and what we had to say.

The award ceremony itself blew my mind. We, as region 10, were the last to go up on stage. We were handed the largest plaque I’ve ever seen. Finally, it seemed to hit me that this was real. After that, there was a luncheon at which Mr. Philippe Cousteau talked about his work and of how he was trying his best to stop the oil spill in his own way. He was inspiring, completely and totally inspiring.

Finally, it was the day that we went to the White House to meet President Obama. All of the winners stood in front of the White House on risers (note: do not wear a black dress on a hot day if you are going to meet the president). He simply walked around the corner. He was sincere, talking to us as one completely normal person might talk to another, as if he had forgotten that he was the president, and was simply a friend. He talked of how great our accomplishments were, and also of how important it was that we didn’t stop here, that we kept going, because “we are the future”. Each and every winner shook his hand, and got to look him in the eye. I wanted to talk, to thank him for his hard work, to chat about the world, and to ask what being the president of the United States is like, but even if I had the chance, I don’t know if I would have been able to get the words out. I was in awe.

This has been something we, the members of EcoLogical, will remember for the rest of our lives. And as President Obama said, it doesn’t stop here. Thank you, everyone who has helped make this happen. It was a life-changing experience.

About the author: Hannah Baird is a middle school student from Homer, Alaska. Hannah, along with one high school student and two other middle school students, recently received recognition for their environmental EcoLogical project.

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The Vision is Green

My name is Sarah Jo Lambert and for my Girl Scout Gold Award project I built an environmental center made entirely out of green materials for kids to learn how to take care of the environment and become strong leaders in the future. It is a 100% Carbon Neutral building materials, meaning that everything that was used to create the Lorax Lodge was reduced, reused, or recycled. It is 850 sq ft in capacity and the walls are made out of Earth Co. Megablock systems. This means that the walls are just compressed earth and weighed about 1 ton each. I also created a curriculum guide so if children didn’t get the opportunity to visit the Lorax Lodge then they could study about the environment in their schools. I translated the curriculum into Spanish as well so that it could be available to more people. I also created a Green Challenge that challenges Girl Scouts around the world to implement the same ideals into their communities and lives. I did all of this over a course of two years because I love the outdoors and being in the midst of wildlife. I wanted kids to be able to experience the same passion and love for this beautiful world that I feel everyday. I hope that children will develop this same passion and zeal and have it for the rest of their lives as they learn to become future leaders of the world.

This trip to Washington, D.C., was my first trip to our capitol city, and it blew my mind. I have never felt so much awe before in my life. From the architecture to the history, I think I fell in love. Not only was meeting the President of the United States an unbelievable honor, but it was so surreal it was hard to imagine that it all really happened. I also got to visit many other amazing places. I went to the Spy Museum, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, a night tour of all of the monuments, and last but definitely not least, the Library of Congress. I got lost with my mom and my new friends and I don’t think I ever would want to be lost in any other way.

This award was very important to me because I was allowed the honor of meeting extraordinary and talented teenagers. They were just as nerdy as I was, and just as passionate about the environment and of life. I believe that everyone who was a recipient of this award, including myself, will have bright futures that will consist of making the world a better place for today’s generation, as well as generations to come. With a future generation that will soon rule the world, I feel very encouraged that tomorrow will definitely be better than today. Not that today isn’t good, but things can only improve. Thank you so much for picking me as a recipient for Region 6, I have never been so honored before in my life.

About the author: Sarah Jo Lambert is a high school student from Lubbock, TX. She recently received a Presidents Environmental Youth Award for project The Vision is Green.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Recycle Because You Care

"Recycle Because You Care" Team, Region 5 PEYA winners

"Recycle Because You Care" Team, Region 5 PEYA winners

This was my first trip to Washington D.C. and it was amazing! We stayed at an awesome hotel. It was located right in between two Metro stations (the subway system in D.C.) We took the Metro everywhere. It was so convenient, clean and safe. I really enjoyed meeting all of the other President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) winners. Their projects were very interesting and covered a wide range of environmental issues. I feel honored to be included in such a smart and motivated group of students! The EPA regional coordinators and hosts were so nice. They made us all feel so special.

On the day we arrived, we met with Congressman Roskam who represents our district. It was neat to see his office and meet the people that work with him. We told him all about our project and he was very proud of us. He encouraged us to continue our efforts. Roskam’s staff assistant gave us a tour of the Capitol Building. It is enormous, beautiful and historic.

The next day was the awards ceremony and luncheon. This event was amazing! EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson gave a speech and presented the PEYA plaques to the winners. She seems like a very nice, smart woman. A great role model for us girls! The performers were fantastic and Philippe Cousteau, our luncheon speaker, was really inspiring. In between all the planned activities we had plenty of time to walk around and sightsee. We stopped in several of the Smithsonian museums, saw the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, Washington National Cathedral and more. And we didn’t even get to see it all!

The following day was probably the highlight of our trip. We got to meet President Barack Obama!!! He talked to the winners and said that we are changing the future today. He seemed genuinely excited about the work all of the teams had done. He even said he is eager to follow our progress as we continue our efforts in college and beyond. We took a picture with the President and he shook the hand of every PEYA winner.

This trip and all of the once in a lifetime experiences made me feel very important and want to continue our work. I also learned about the many careers out there in environment protection. This was probably one of the best experiences we could ever have. Thanks EPA for EVERYTHING!!

About the author: Maggie O’Brien is a middle school student from Addison, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Maggie, along with two other middle school students, recently received a Presidents Environmental Youth Award for a recycling project they developed and implemented, Recycle Because You Care.

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Tomorrow’s Environmentalists Today

PEYA-logoRecently, EPA was honored to present the President’s Environmental Youth Award to some of the futures brightest environmental stars. Several years ago, I coordinated this program, and was just as amazed this year as I was back then at the innovation and creativity school-aged kids have to address environmental issues in their communities.

The projects are carried out by either an individual or a group, but all of them no doubt make a huge difference in their community. For example, this year a group of middle school students created a sustainable project to collect the town’s waste cooking oil, refine it into biofuel and then distribute it. To date these students have donated 4,000 gallons of Bioheat to local charities and helped 40 families with emergency heating assistance, not to mention the reduction in the release of carbon dioxide into the air. Wow, if they can do something like this in middle school, I can only imagine the environmental impacts these students will make when they are older.

Another of this year’s winners, a high school student from Lubbock, Texas, set out to help educate children about living green. The result: Lorax Lodge, a new environmental education center, curriculum guides for the center with hands-on activities, and a nature trail. So far, 1,300 people have visited Lorax Lodge from 14 different states. Oh, and did I mention that Texas Tech University has adopted the Lodge to use as their pilot program for an energy audit and have arranged to use the Lodge as a model for sustainable construction…absolutely incredible.

I encourage you to read about all of the winning projects from this year and past years and be amazed at how today’s youth are tackling some of our most important environmental problems. Perhaps you know of some future environmentalists making a difference in your community. I encourage you to share this program with them.

During their trip to Washington, DC, we invited this year’s winners to blog about their experiences. During the next few weeks, Greenversations will be featuring their blogs on Friday’s. I invite you to read their stories about their experiences, share in and congratulate them on their successes, and take inspiration from these young folks about how we all can make a difference in tomorrow today!

About the author: Kelly Chick has worked for the federal government for over 26 years at various agencies. She currently works in the Office of Web Communications within the Office of Public Affairs at EPA Headquarters.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Passion and Action – President's Environmental Youth Awards

Do you have a passion for the environment? Have you put the passion into action? Well, you need to let us know and learn about the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). PEYA is an award program for students K – 12th grade. Whether you completed an environmental awareness project as an individual, a group, or class, you are eligible, and encouraged, to apply.

image of PEYA logoI have been managing the PEYA program in EPA’s Region 1office for over 5 years. It is one of my favorite programs in the agency and is truly a hidden gem. So many students create projects centered around the environment. How cool is it to be recognized for your passion with an award ceremony in Washington, DC, potentially meeting President Obama, and hanging out with kids from across the country with the same passion for the environment as you. I am always amazed and impressed with the scope and depth of some of the projects submitted. I have had winners who have created a rain garden behind their town hall to prevent runoff from contaminating the river behind it; an Eagle Scout who created a program to have fisherman use an alternative weight to lead sinkers; an afterschool group who created an energy audit and program for its school district and so many more.

The regional award program is conducted once a year, and each of the 10 EPA regions selects a regional winner. Each regional winner is invited to an EPA-sponsored award ceremony in Washington, DC and receives a presidential plague.

I never get bored with students’ passion and action towards the environment. We want to read about your great projects and EPA knows you have worked hard on a project so why not get some recognition? You can get the program details (including applications deadlines), check out previous winning projects for inspiration, and get the application at epa.gov/peya. Get the credit you deserve for putting your passion into action and making the environment a cleaner, healthier place, and remember, it’s never too early to start a project for next year!

About the author: Kristen Conroy is the Environmental Education Coordinator in the EPA Reg 1’s Boston region. Kristen has been with EPA since 1991.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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EPA’s Presidential Environmental Youth Awards Program

About the author: Megan Gavin currently works as the environmental education coordinator in the Chicago office of EPA. She started working at EPA just out of college as a volunteer and stayed on to become a paid intern and eventually a permanent employee. She is in charge of administering a grants program and a youth award program. She leads the environmental education web workgroup which oversees the design and content of the kids, students, high school and teachers web sites.

On May 11, 2009, I flew from Chicago, IL to Washington, DC to take part in the President’s Environmental Youth Award celebration. Winning students from across the country came to our nation’s capitol to be recognized for completing environmental projects. It was inspiring to see elementary, middle and high school students who have taken the initiative to get involved with an environmental issue that interests them. This year’s award winners were interested in the environment and instead of sitting back and watching others do something, they decided to get involved. Whether it was starting an anti smoking campaign or raising awareness about damage being done to rivers they got involved. One high school student from Nebraska went above and beyond a class assignment and hosted the largest recycling rally her community has ever seen. Another student addressed the challenges of using bio-ethanol and came up with a way to make it more practically used in commercial processes. Yet another winner persuaded his entire community to switch to energy efficient light bulbs. Many of the winners had to raise money and get support for their projects. Others were featured in stories in local and national newspapers and on the radio. It’s amazing to see the attention that kids can bring to an issue. The President’s Environmental Youth Award competition is offered every year and is open to kids in grades K-12. You can apply for a regional certificate or the regional award. If you apply for the regional award you need to tell us what the benefits of your project were. You also need to tell us what your goals were and if you were able to accomplish them. Many past winners started a project as a one time activity and had so much fun that they got their friends involved and work on it all year.  When I was in high school I remember volunteering at a nature center clearing buckthorn which is an invasive species. It was hard work but I felt good after I saw the big pile at the end. I didn’t know about the President’s Environmental Youth Award program.

Why don’t you tell us about some projects you completed that increase environmental awareness or community involvement? In addition to applying for EPA’s President’s Environmental Youth Award program, there are plenty of other environmental award programs too. Check them out at:epa.gov/highschool/awards.htm or epa.gov/peya.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Climate for Action: President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA)

About the Author: Loreal Crumbley, a senior at George Mason University, is an intern with EPA’s Environmental Education Division through EPA’s Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).

image of PEYA emblemAs some of you may know the EPA manages the President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA). This program involves young Americans who are dedicated to helping protect and create a better environment. Each year young people across the United States are invited to participate in this program. The program recognizes students for their work in school classrooms, youth organizations, summer camps, and individual projects. The youths who win PEYA awards are environmental stewards who have worked on projects to promote environmental awareness and community involvement.

I know there are plenty of PEYA candidates across this country who have worked to improve the environment and the community that they live in. Visit the PEYA website for more information on the program and the application form.
 
There are a few eligibility requirements that you must meet before applying:

  1. The project can be done by an individual student, but it must be completed while students are in kindergarten through 12th grade
  2. Participants must be citizens of the United States, its territories, or lawfully admitted to the U.S for permanent residency
  3. The project is sponsored by at least one adult.

Qualified applicants will receive a certificate honoring them for their efforts to protect human health and the environment. Once an application and project are submitted to the Regional office for consideration in the national competition, a regional recognition certificate is issued. The regional recognition certificate program is conducted year-round; therefore applications can be submitted at any time, however the submission deadline for consideration in the PEYA National Award Program is December 31st.

The national competition is conducted once a year consisting of all of the projects submitted to the Regional office. After this deadline, the regional award panel for each of EPA’s 10 regional offices will review the applications and select an outstanding project to represent that region and receive a presidential plaque at EPA’s National PEYA Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

I’m sure you are all are wondering what types of projects have won the national awards. Some included climate change, electronics recycling, water quality monitoring, and air quality reform. For more in-depth project descriptions please visit our PEYA website.

I urge you to apply for this prestigious award. Your efforts to protect our environment should be rewarded!!! If you have any questions about the PEYA program leave a comment and I will get back to you!!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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