Telluride, Colorado student wins 2021 President’s Environmental Youth Award
In a virtual ceremony yesterday, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory recognized national awardees and runners-up
Telluride, Colo. – 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 President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) and the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE). Those being recognized include Ayla Kanow of Telluride, Colorado as a winner in the 6th through 12th grade PEYA category for the project “Seas of Trees.”
“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.”
Ayla Kanow established the global non-profit organization Seas of Trees as a way to promote youth involvement in nature while helping to protect the planet. Working with local student groups, Seas of Trees planted trees across Telluride. Ayla and Seas of Trees then expanded the work, planting trees around the world to lower carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. In 2020, Seas of Trees planted 1,500 trees, raised over $7,000, and sequestered 576,000 pounds of CO2.
The PEYA was established by the Environmental Education Act of 1970 and recognizes outstanding community-level environmental projects by K-12 youth that promote awareness of natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. 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.
The PIAEE award was established by the 1990 National Environmental Education Act and seeks to recognize, support, and bring public attention to the outstanding environmental projects performed by teachers who go beyond textbook instruction to incorporate methods and materials that utilize creative experiences and enrich student learning in K-12 education. CEQ, in partnership with EPA, administers this award.
From across the country, 32 students and 15 educators are recognized for their leadership and commitment to environmental education and environmental stewardship. This year, 32 students who worked as a team or individually on 16 projects received the President’s Environmental Youth Award; 14 students received honorable mentions. Their stewardship projects, conducted in 2020, display a commitment to participating in creative sustainability efforts, restoring native habitats and installing renewable energy projects.
Additionally, five educators received the 2021 PIAEE, and 10 educators were recognized with an honorable mention distinction. Winning educators demonstrated leadership by integrating environmental education into multiple subjects and using topics such as climate change, a healthy school environment, environmentally friendly agriculture practices, human contributions to ocean litter, STEM education and recycling or school gardens.
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