Local Kids Make a Global Difference

By Ameshia Cross

One of the great things about my internship with EPA is that I get to continue working with youth and youth related issues.  Recently I was lucky enough to serve as one of the judges for the President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) in EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago.

PEYA was created by EPA and the President of the United States to recognize the ideas and innovations of youth working on environmental issues. PEYA is a competition open to youth around the country and students can participate by themselves or in a group project.  Serving as a judge, I was immediately wowed by the applicants. Projects ranged from outreach efforts with state legislatures and communities about water issues and recycling to wetlands and conservationism.   The winning applicant from Region 5 was a group from Chicago – the EcoMacs.

The EcoMacs are a group of teenage women who attend Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School. The Operation Haiti project they designed is simply phenomenal. These young women studied the region and its people; they learned about its economy and its environmental resources and decided to do something to help.  The group devised a plan to bring economic stability to the village of Pichon by using untapped natural resources.  As desolate as the village seemed, the Eco-Macs saw that Haiti had two major eco-friendly resources, the Jathropha plant and extensive sun exposure. The students built a solar-powered biodiesel processor for a school in Pichon. They worked with farmers to plant Jathropa whose seed oil can be converted to marketable products. Additionally, the students advised the school in Pichon on the process of making soap out of a glycerin by-product as well as using the biodiesel for use in oil lamps and much more.

Unfortunately, the processor has not made it to its final destination due to logistical issues in Port-au-Prince. In the meantime, the EcoMacs have continued to educate the local community about the project through appearances and Power Point presentations at elementary schools and Earth Day programs.

These young ladies are making a difference globally. They thought beyond the borders of the United States and created something for a region that many people forgot about after the earthquake headlines stopped running. The EcoMacs saw a problem and an environmental asset that could alleviate it. This is the kind of thinking and inspiration that deserves recognition…CONGRATULATIONS LADIES!

About the author:  Ameshia Cross joined the EPA in December as a STEP intern in the Air and Radiation Division in Chicago. She has worked for numerous community organizations and holds seats on youth education boards. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Administration with an emphasis on environmental policy and legislation.

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