Southern California students honored with President’s Environmental Youth Award
LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) to a student project led by Lila Copeland, 17, of Ocean Preparatory High School in Los Angeles. The award, one of 17 given nationwide to projects involving 200 students, honors exceptional contributions to environmental education and stewardship.
“This project has made a real difference and benefitted students across Los Angeles County,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “We are honored to recognize the next generation of environmental stewards who will help create a more sustainable future.”
At the age of 10, Lila founded Earth Peace, a nonprofit organization in California, which in 2015 launched the Healthy Freedom Campaign to add a fully plant-based lunch option at Los Angeles public schools every day of the school year. In 2017, the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) – the nation’s second largest public-school district – ratified a resolution based on the campaign and launched a pilot plant-based menu option in seven schools. Participation in the program was reported to reach as high as 51% on days when a preferred plant-based meal option was served. Today the program has expanded to more than 80 schools.
“Making a change to plant-based foods in our diets is one of the most impactful things we can do to protect the environment for future generations,” says Healthy Freedom Campaign director Lila Copeland. “Every student can make this positive change right where they are.”
Also receiving awards with Lila are team members Zion Flores, Felix Hemstreet, Kohana Porter and Nikita Totka. The campaign ultimately hopes to bring plant-based meal options to all California schools.
From across the country, 19 educators and 200 students were recognized for their remarkable efforts that promote environmental education and stewardship. Eleven educators received the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators, and eight educators were recognized with an honorable mention distinction. Additionally, the 200 student award recipients – who worked as a team or individually on 17 projects – received the President’s Environmental Youth Award. Altogether, EPA received 162 project applications from 26 states.
Established by the 1990 National Environmental Education Act, the PEYA program promotes local environmental awareness among our nation’s youth and encourages positive community involvement. EPA Headquarters works with staff located in EPA’s 10 regional offices in the selection of award recipients across the country.
For a list of past PEYA winners, visit: www.epa.gov/education/presidents-environmental-youth-award-peya-winners
For information on environmental education at EPA, visit: www.epa.gov/education