EPA Announces two Northern California Winners of President’s Student Environmental Awards


Watsonville, Calif. student group and Pleasanton, Calif. student among those recognized in a virtual ceremony by
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), is pleased to announce the 2021 recipients of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) and the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). In Watsonville, Mount Madonna School’s 5th Grade’s “Save Our Sharks - A Fintastic Tale” video earned one national award, while Pleasanton 11th grader Hiya Shah’s Maji-Water Education and Security project was another winner.

“This past school year has been one of the most challenging for our nation, yet students and teachers across the country remained dedicated to tackling the most pressing environmental challenges we face – from climate change to environmental justice,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “I’m so proud of the remarkable youth and educators we’re honoring today, and their work to make a difference in their communities. By working hand in hand, we can create a more sustainable, more equitable world.”

“It is humbling and inspiring to see the impact these educators and students are having on their communities and our planet,” said White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory. “I congratulate the awardees and the schools they represent for applying their creativity, leadership, and passion to solving the environmental problems of our time, from confronting the climate crisis and conserving our lands and waters to pursuing environmental justice for all. These remarkable educators and students are leading the way toward a more equitable, sustainable and healthy future.”

SOS: Save Our Sharks - A Fintastic Tale” is a student-driven project that supports shark conservation. The 5th grade class at Mount Madonna School in Watsonville created an educational movie to show how people’s choices impact sharks and the marine ecosystem, raised funds for shark conservation, wrote letters to elected representatives to support a shark fin trade ban, and cleaned up local beaches.

Hiya Shah, an 11th grade student, developed a project called “Maji-Water Education and Security” that involved a youth-led outreach campaign and a full-length documentary. In response to PFAS found in some of Pleasanton’s groundwater wells, Hiya helped make real-time water quality information accessible through a mobile app (called Maji) to promote proactive approaches to conserve water, prevent water pollution, and secure clean water access to communities. Hiya also designed a bioinspired PFAS removal and filtration system that reduces energy requirements.

In California, four additional student projects were recognized as Honorable Mentions for the President’s award:

  • The Evergreen Makers are a team of seven 11th graders from San Jose, who created an autonomous mobile robot that uses machine learning and environmental data to suggest optimal crops and rotation patterns called Croptomize.
  • Ina Kathleen Chun, an 11th grader from Irvine, developed a project to address food insecurity and climate change called, “Green Gardens/Global Interactions of Topsoil Loss.”
  • The Green Team and Progressive Club, a group of five 12th graders from Chula Vista, work to address plastic pollution through their project, “Recycle Plastic Waste into Asphalt Roads.” The team worked with California Senator Hueso to write State Bill (SB) 1238, which he introduced and was passed in the California Senate.
  • Kelly Tung, a 10th grader from Cupertino, founded the Youth Environmental Power Initiative (YEPI), a nonprofit organization that promotes alternative transportation, safe biking and walking to lead future leaders to fight against climate change and make positive changes for our environment.

The PEYA was established by the Environmental Education Act of 1970 and recognizes outstanding community-level environmental projects by K-12 youth. Each year, PEYA honors a variety of local projects developed by students, school classes, summer camp attendees and youth organizations to promote engagement in environmental stewardship and protection.

To read about the winning projects in detail, visit: www.epa.gov/education/presidents-environmental-youth-award-peya-winners and www.epa.gov/education/presidential-innovation-award-environmental-educators.

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SOURCE: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-announces-two-northern-california-winners-presidents-student-environmental-awards

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