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.

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