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News Releases from Region 07

Recycling Work Earns Students from Pella, Iowa, and Linn, Mo., 2015 President’s Environmental Youth Awards

Contact Information: 
Chris Whitley (whitley.christopher@epa.gov)

Environmental News


(Lenexa, Kan., April 20, 2016) – With a shared passion for recycling to improve the environment, two students—one from Iowa and one from Missouri—are being recognized as winners of the 2015 President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA), an annual program sponsored by the White House and EPA to recognize outstanding environmental projects by K-12 youth.

Laurel Stelter, of Pella, Iowa, and Cameron Gehlert, of Linn, Mo., were among the national winners of the 2015 PEYAs announced today in Washington. Established in 1971, the awards program recognizes young people for their outstanding efforts to protect the nation’s air, water, land and ecology.

Stelter was recognized for her efforts in starting an extensive recycling program associated with the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, also known as RAGBRAI. The seven-day cross-state event draws thousands of cyclists and spectators to Iowa each summer. Stelter, herself a cyclist, complained to her mother after her first three RAGBRAIs that the event needed recycling support to address the waste left behind. Stelter’s mother challenged her to do something about it, and the result became a comprehensive project to enlist and educate host communities along the ride’s route to support recycling.

Gehlert’s passion for recycling in and around the community of Linn, Mo., began in fourth grade and has continued on through middle and high school. Known as “the kid in town who is into recycling,” he asked for and received an unusual Christmas present in 2014: a cardboard baler. Gehlert has engaged many local businesses to participate in recycling efforts, in addition to his work in supporting recycling at his school. Every two weeks at school, Gehlert recycles scores of 18-gallon tubs full of paper and other materials, and using the baler, he has recycled more than two tons of cardboard.

Each year, the PEYA program honors a wide variety of projects developed by young individuals, school classes, summer camps, public interest groups, and youth organizations to promote environmental awareness. Typically thousands of young people from all 50 states and the U.S. territories submit projects to EPA for consideration.

Previous winning projects have covered a wide range of subject areas, including restoring native habitats, recycling in schools and communities, construction of nature preserves, tree planting, installing renewable energy projects, creating videos, skits and newsletters that focused on environmental issues; and participating in other creative sustainability efforts.

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See a list of 2015 PEYA winners across the nation:


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