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President's Environmental Youth Award

Your project--or one you are sponsoring--could be an award winner. Apply or encourage a student you know to apply for PEYA and see what a difference they can make for the environment with an award-winning project. Applicants from all 50 states as well as U.S. territories are eligible to compete for a regional certificate of special recognition and a national Presidential award.

The 2020-2021 PEYA competition has closed. PEYA competition winners are expected to be notified by the end of June 2021 and then will receive further information about the award ceremony, which is anticipated to be virtual this year and occur in mid-August. All PEYA applicants who who met basic eligibility requirements for the competition but did not win will receive a certificate of participation.

On this page:

History and Basic Information about the President's Environmental Youth Award

The President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) recognizes outstanding environmental projects by K-12 youth. The PEYA program promotes awareness of our nation's natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. Since 1971, the President of the United States has joined with EPA to recognize young people for protecting our nation's air, water, land, and ecology. It is one of the most important ways EPA and the Administration demonstrate commitment to environmental stewardship efforts created and conducted by our nation's youth.

Each year the PEYA program honors a wide variety of projects developed by young individuals, school classes (kindergarten through high school), summer camps, public interest groups, and youth organizations to promote environmental awareness and action in schools and communities. Thousands of young people from all 50 states and the U.S. territories have submitted projects to EPA for consideration. Winning projects in the past have demonstrated impact in schools and communities in a wide range of subject areas, including:

PEYA winner taking a sample for a project

  • climate change
  • 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
  • participating in many other creative sustainability efforts

Participation in the PEYA program is frequently a life-changing experience for many of the young people and their project sponsors.

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How the Program Works

PEYA has two parts — a regional award for Grades K-5 and a regional award for Grades 6-12.

EPA has ten regional offices across the country. Based on the evaluation criteria, each regional office will be responsible for selecting up to two winners per region– one for Grades K-5 and one for Grades 6-12. Applicants are welcome to include youth across multiple grade levels; however, the application will be categorized based on the applicant with the highest grade level. For example, if one applicant group consists of two 4th graders, one 3rd grader and one 6th grader, the application will be evaluated in the Grade 6-12 category.

Each award-winning project will receive a Presidential plaque. All qualified applicants will receive recognition from EPA leadership honoring them for their efforts to protect human health and the environment.

Eligibility

  • Project is completed while the applicant(s) is in kindergarten through 12th grade.
  • Applicant(s) is a citizen of the United States or its territories or has been lawfully admitted for permanent residency.  Applicant also resides in a U.S. state or territory.
  • Represented by at least one sponsor who is a teacher or other education professional.  For home-schooled applicants with no interaction with formal educators, the teacher sponsor can be a parent.  The sponsor/co-sponsor must be an adult at least 21 years of age.
  • Projects started on or after January 1, 2020 and with activity during the 2020 calendar year are eligible for consideration. As long as there was activity on the project during the 2020 calendar year, a project initiated prior to 2020 or that has continued activity in 2021 is eligible for consideration.
  • Project must include an environmental stewardship component as defined below.

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How to Apply for the National Award Program

Step 1: Review the Eligibility Criteria

  • Project is completed while the applicant(s) is in kindergarten through 12th grade.
  • Applicant(s) is a citizen of the United States or its territories or has been lawfully admitted for permanent residency.  Applicant also resides in a U.S. state or territory.
  • Represented by at least one sponsor who is a teacher or other education professional.  For home-schooled applicants with no interaction with formal educators, the teacher sponsor can be a parent.  The sponsor/co-sponsor must be an adult at least 21 years of age.
  • Projects started on or after January 1, 2020 and with activity during the 2020 calendar year are eligible for consideration. As long as there was activity on the project during the 2020 calendar year, a project initiated prior to 2020 or that has continued activity in 2021 is eligible for consideration.
  • Project must include an environmental stewardship component as defined below.

Step 2: Complete an Application

  • Download the application.
  • A project summary of up to 300 words must be provided on the application form. Please note that applicants that are applying in the 6-12 grade level category must complete the project summary section themselves. Applicants in the K-5 grade level may be advised by the sponsor and sponsors may assist in the writing of the project summary.
  • A more detailed description of the project, no more than five pages, and addressing each of the evaluation criterion should be attached to the application.
  • Applicants may submit up to five additional pages of supporting materials:   photographs, newspaper articles, or other supporting materials to provide a more comprehensive view of the project.  Accompanying videos must be web-based; do not email video files or mail CDs.
  • Sponsors must sign and date page A-3 of the application; signatures can be electronic or ink-on-paper but not simply the sponsor name typed in.   Page A-3 can be submitted separately if there are challenges with multiple e-signatures in the document.
  • Teacher sponsors must provide a complete mailing address as awards and certificates will be mailed to teacher sponsors.  

Step 3: Submit the Application

  • To protect the online privacy of student applicants, applicant sponsors or co-sponsors should gather and submit application materials.   
  • For this year’s competition, applicants are strongly encouraged to submit all application materials electronically (email). If you plan to mail some or all of your application materials, please contact us at peya@epa.gov so that we can ensure receipt.  
  • Email completed application materials to peya@epa.gov by 11:59 p.m. ET on April 30, 2021. Applicants are encouraged to combine complete set of application materials into a single email with attachments preferably in PDF or MS Word
  • Mailed applications must be received by April 30, 2021, at the address below to be eligible for consideration:
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    Office of Environmental Education
    Attn: President's Environmental Youth Award Program
    William Jefferson Clinton North, Room 1426
    1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, MC 1704-A
    Washington, DC 20460
  • A confirmation email is sent upon receipt of the application package.

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Judging Criteria

Each application is evaluated by a regional awards panel. The panel members review and evaluate each application based on the criteria. There are separate evaluation criteria for K-5 and 6-12 applications. A maximum of 100 points can be awarded to a given application.

Evaluation criteria for PEYA applications from K-5th grade students
Evaluation Criteria Points

Youth Initiative: How did the applicant(s) come up with the idea for the project? To what extent does the applicant(s) take charge of the project?

15 points

Environmental Stewardship* and Impact: Was there an environmental stewardship component to the project? How did the applicant(s) identify the environmental need for this project? How did the project positively affect the environment? Did the student(s) complete the project?

30 points
Achieving Project Goals: Winning projects may highlight environmental stewardship in a variety of areas, including:
  • climate change;
  • environmental sustainability;
  • a healthy school environment, including projects that reduce food waste in school cafeterias;
  • environmentally-friendly agriculture practices;
  • reducing and preventing human contributions to ocean litter;
  • school gardens;
  • recycling; or
  • using STEM to teach environmental education.
How did the project address one of the focus areas of the competition, including:
  • climate change;
  • projects that reduce food waste in school cafeterias;
  • environmentally-friendly agriculture practices;
  • reducing and preventing human contributions to ocean litter;
  • school gardens;
  • recycling; or
  • using STEM to teach environmental education?
15 points

Community Involvement: To what extent did the project involve others in the school or community? Please describe the community.

15 points

Project Creativity and/or Innovation: What creative and/or innovative approach(es) did the applicant(s) use for the project?

15 points

Project Approach: To what extent does the application tell a complete story about the project? Did the applicant(s) have a thought-out approach to solving the problem?

10 points
Total 100 points
Evaluation criteria for PEYA applications from 6th-12th grade students
Evaluation Criteria Points

Youth Initiative: To what extent was the project designed, coordinated and implemented due to applicant (s) initiative? How was the project created and completed by the applicant(s)? The driving force for the project must be the applicant(s), not the sponsor.

15 points

Environmental Need and Appropriateness: To what extent was there a clear environmental need for the project? How appropriate was the project for the community in which it was performed?

20 points

Environmental Stewardship* and Impact: Was there an environmental stewardship component to the project? How did the project positively affect the community? Were there any long-term environmental benefits or outcomes of the project? Did the student(s) complete the project?

15 points
Achieving Project Goals: Winning projects may highlight environmental stewardship in a variety of areas, including:
  • climate change;
  • environmental sustainability;
  • a healthy school environment, including projects that reduce food waste in school cafeterias;
  • environmentally-friendly agriculture practices;
  • reducing and preventing human contributions to ocean litter;
  • school gardens;
  • recycling; or
  • using STEM to teach environmental education.
How did the project address one of the focus areas of the competition, including:
  • climate change;
  • projects that reduce food waste in school cafeterias;
  • environmentally-friendly agriculture practices;
  • reducing and preventing human contributions to ocean litter;
  • school gardens;
  • recycling; or
  • using STEM to teach environmental education?
15 points

Community Involvement: To what extent did the project positively involve others in the community? Please describe the community What community resources, expertise, leadership, or publicity did the applicant(s) use?

15 points

Project Creativity and Innovation: How did the applicant(s) use creative and/or innovative approaches to achieve positive results?

10 points

Soundness of Approach, Rationale, and Scientific Design: Was the approach to the problem clear? Did the applicant(s) have a sound justification for choosing that approach? If so, what is that justification?

10 points
Total 100 points
*Definition: “Environmental or Conservation Stewardship” is voluntary commitment, behavior, and action that results in environmental protection or improvement, or conservation of our natural resources. Stewardship refers to an acceptance of personal responsibility for actions to improve environmental quality and to achieve conservation outcomes. Stewardship involves lifestyles and business practices, initiatives and actions that enhance the state of the environment and natural resources. Some examples are:
  • living or conducting business in such a way as to minimize or eliminate pollution at its source;
  • using natural resources efficiently;
  • decreasing the use of hazardous chemicals;
  • recycling wastes effectively; and
  • conserving or restoring soil, forests, prairies, wetlands, rivers, and parks.

Stewardship can be practiced by individuals, groups, schools, organizations, companies, communities, and state and local governments.

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Recognition of Winners

PEYA winner leading a habitat restoration project

Each year, EPA gives a Presidential plaque to the national award winners, and EPA leadership recognizes all qualified applicants in a letter or certificate.

Read about current and past PEYA winners.

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Sponsors

Each applicant or group of applicants applying for PEYA must be represented by a teacher sponsor or other education professional. For home-schooled applicants with no interaction with formal educators, the teacher sponsor can be a parent. The teacher sponsor must certify that the project was been completed by all applicants.

Typically, a sponsor offers suggestions and advice throughout the project to:

  • develop a well-thought-out project;
  • implement the project;
  • work with other groups and individuals in the community;
  • complete the application form (for K-5 applicants); and
  • assist in preparing accompanying materials.

The sponsor/co-sponsor must also sign and date the application.

Questions about the role of a sponsor should be directed to peya@epa.gov.


Resources for Sponsors

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does the teacher sponsor need to be a teacher from the applicant's school?  No, the teacher sponsor can be any educational professional who can certify the project and who may be or have been involved with the project.

Does an application need to have a co-sponsor?   No, an application does not need to have a co-sponsor.  However, the application's one sponsor should be a teacher or other education professional unless the student is home-schooled and has no interaction with any education professionals who can certify the project.

What is the role of a co-sponsor?  A co-sponsor is typically another teacher or education professional who can certify the project or is often someone in the community or a subject matter expert who has provided guidance on the project.  A co-sponsor should not be the student's parent if the application already has a teacher sponsor. 

Can a team consist of students from multiple schools?   Yes, a team can consist of students from multiple schools.  However, one school and one teacher sponsor from that school should serve as the "lead" school for the application.

I live in one state, but my project took place in another.  Which EPA Region will review my application?   Applicants compete by the EPA Region which covers their U.S. state or territory of residence.  So, it is important that the applicant's U.S. state or territory of residence is clear in either the application form or from the project description.

Who will receive updates about an application's progress?    Correspondence will be addressed to the adult application sponsor(s) named in the application.   In the event a student or other person not indicated as a sponsor submits the application, future correspondence will regardless be with the adult sponsor(s) named in the application.  When inquiring about an application, please indicate the project name in the subject line and not student name(s).  

Who will receive awards or certificates of participation?  Awards and certificates of participation are mailed to the teacher sponsor indicated on the application.  For this reason, it is critical to have an accurate mailing address for the teacher sponsor. 

Are there any tips for submitting application files?  Name key application files using a combination of project name and also what the file is (application form, project details, supplementary information).  When submitting an application, indicate the project name in the subject line and not student name(s).  For applications with numerous files, such as team applications with numerous parent forms, we recommend listing attachments in the body of the email to ensure all were received.   Parent forms:  If submitting multiple forms as separate files, indicate whether permission slip or media release form or both and also name file using student initials and project name.  Please ensure that parent forms name the student, print the parent name, and are dated.

Additional questions about the program should be sent to peya@epa.gov.

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