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News Releases from Region 08

EPA honors Lone Tree, Colo., student with President’s Environmental Youth Award

Contact Information: 
Richard Mylott (

DENVER  — In a ceremony in Washington D.C. on Friday, September 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded Lone Tree, Colorado, student Gitanjali R. the President’s Environmental Youth Award for developing an innovative technology for water quality testing. Gitanjali, a middle-school student at STEM School Highlands Ranch, was honored among winners of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) and the most recent winners of the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). This year, ten educators and 49 students from across the country were recognized for their efforts.

Gitanjali’s project developed a speedy, accurate, and inexpensive test to detect lead contamination in water, with the potential for application to identify and prevent human exposure. She developed a device to accurately measure lead levels in water using nanotechnology and display it on a custom mobile app. The device is portable and can be reprogrammed for other contaminants. In addition to securing research and development funding and testing a prototype, Gitanjali is also actively promoting water quality awareness in her community, participating in TEDx conferences in India, and acting as a reporter for “TIME for Kids.”

EPA honored these award-winning educators and honorable mention recipients at a series of events in Washington, D.C. on Friday, September 21. Through these programs, EPA is honoring the remarkable work of these educators and students in the field of environmental education and stewardship.

The day’s events featured a ceremony with remarks by Matthew Z. Leopold, EPA General Counsel, as well as special guest National Park Service Office of Public Health Director and U.S. Public Health Service Captain Sara B. Newman, DrPH, MCP. Winning teachers and students also be presented their work at an afternoon poster session for all attendees as well as EPA leadership.

Students conducted projects including raising international awareness of a threatened bird species and the use of plastics, supporting local waterways, researching new biodegradable plastic, developing a new model for water efficient facilities, creating educational interactive electronic programs on sustainable urban development, and exploring a new economic way to test for lead in water, as well as recycling, composting, and supporting local ecology.


The PIAEE program recognizes innovative educators who bring environmental education into their classrooms through hands-on, experiential approaches. The PEYA program recognizes outstanding environmental projects by K-12 youth, promotes awareness of our nation's natural resources, and encourages positive community involvement. 

Teachers are recognized for activities including developing successful preschool, elementary, middle, and high school environmental and outdoor education courses; advising environmental clubs for students and family programs, including activities such as building gardens and compost centers, hosting community service days, starting school waste reduction programs, and exploring energy conservation; leading training workshops and other professional development for peers; teaching about the global impact of agriculture and nutrition; and leading students in responding to recent weather events.

PIAEE Winners:

EPA Region 1

Christine Brothers
Falmouth High School
Falmouth, Massachusetts

EPA Region 4

Timothy Chase
Bluffton High School
Bluffton, South Carolina

EPA Region 5

Anna Dutke
Jeffers Pond Elementary
Prior Lake, Minnesota

EPA Region 7

Morgan Skaith,
Carden Park Elementary School
St. Joseph, Missouri

The following teachers will be recognized as PIAEE honorable mention recipients:

EPA Region 1

Edmund Smith
Two Rivers Magnet Middle School
Andover, Connecticut

EPA Region 2

Rosalina Alvarado
Bernardino Cordero Bernard Vocational High School
Ponce, Puerto Rico

Lynn Hughes
High Bridge Elementary School
High Bridge, New Jersey

EPA Region 5

Sarah Garrett
Jackson Middle School
Champlin, Minnesota

EPA Region 7

Melanie Falcon
Smoky Valley Middle School
Lindsborg, Kansas

EPA Region 9

Sergio de Alba
R.M. Miano Elementary School
Los Banos, California

The PEYA winning projects are:

EPA Region 1:
The Blue Feet Foundation
Team: William and Matthew G.

EPA Region 2:
Worm Tower, Earth Power
by Samuel B.
New Jersey

Water Monitoring for Informed Decisions
by Sonja M.
New Jersey

EPA Region 3:
An Innovative Dual Process Using Pumpkin to Solve Two Global Environmental Crises
by Kaien Y.

Skip the Straw
by Ahman J.

EPA Region 4:
Climate Leadership and Outreach: Connecting Air Quality and Renewable Energy
by Emily L.
North Carolina

EPA Region 5:
Mayor Leaps to Save Michigan Frogs
by Trinity F.

Electronic Recycling Initiative
by Jay M.

EPA Region 6:
Save the Place Where We are Living and Save the Planet
by Asvini T.

Saving the Hands that Feed Us
by Madhalasa I.

EPA Region 7:
Ecommode Water-reducing Toilet
Team: Oak Ridge LEGO Blasters

EPA Region 8:
Developing a Technology for Water Quality Testing
by Gitanjali R.

EPA Region 9:
by Audrey K.

Friends of the LAX Dunes
by Ayanna N.

EPA Region 10:
Make Soil not Smoke by Composting
Team: Mr. Anderson's First Grade Class

Operation Sustain
Team: Operation Sustain 

Detailed information on PEYA and PIAEE winners is available at and