EPI Announces Leadership Award Winners!

Sorry, you need to have JavaScript enabled to properly view this site.

Enroll Donate
Follow EPI on Instagram Follow EPI on YouTube Blog Search

EPI Announces Leadership Award Winners!

Scroll Down


During Nicole Xiao’s annual visits to China, she recognized that the air she breathed was full of toxic contaminants. Some days she wouldn’t even venture outside! This experience catalyzed her to take action on behalf of the vulnerable bees in her own community in Moscow, Idaho, and to apply for EPI’s Alumni Leadership Award.

EPI strives to inspire, and then nurture, lifelong conservation in the students that participate in our courses. To that end, EPI annually offers the Alumni Leadership Award to students who are passionate about pursuing their own conservation projects. This year, EPI granted three Leadership Awards to forward-thinking and creative alumni, all eager to help protect our shared environment.

Nicole is passionate about pollinators, and concerned by their rapidly declining populations and diversity. In particular, of the 4,000 native species of bees in North America, she let us know that half of their populations are rapidly declining. She will use her Alumni Leadership Award from EPI to build native bee boxes: one in her Moscow, Idaho, high school garden and ten more for their local native wetlands restoration project. She hopes that the boxes will not only help native bees thrive, but also help the new plants and trees spread in the wetlands, by encouraging the presence of pollinators.

Nicole also plans to put up educational signage. She says, “By putting up educational signs along with the bee boxes, we can ensure that any visitors will not only stop by and have a look at the bees, but can also learn about their impact and role.” Like a true scientist, she also plans to monitor the bees’ usage of the boxes over the next year, to determine if she’s placed them in the best locations. Go Nicole!

Pollinators actually inspired action by two of our award winners. Defne Yuksel, also from Moscow, Idaho, plans to promote awareness of the challenges facing bees by creating a local conference, conducting outreach to elementary schools, and painting a community mural. She hopes particularly to educate others on colony collapse disorder through these efforts. Her aim is to help her community explore the idea of a world without bees, and what that might mean for humans themselves, who are often unaware of the far-reaching help that bees offer us in the form of their pollination services.

She says that: “As a leading factor in food manufacturing … the bees are a fundamental piece of society, and without them, with decreasing numbers, it is challenging to understand how humans will function.” We love Defne’s creativity in approaching this important issue and we can’t wait for pictures of their mural!

EPI’s third Alumni Leadership Award winner this year, Kerry Wong, planned to work to ban plastic straws in her community of San Jose, California. Kerry asked EPI for advice and mentoring on how to approach this project, rather than a monetary award. But shortly after being selected for the EPI Leadership Award, in a progressive move, California banned plastic straws. EPI put Kerry in touch with members of the Californios Verdes Eco-Club in Mexico, and as a result of their advice, Kerry was inspired to “broaden [her] scope to educating others [and] starting conversations about unnecessary plastic use.” She hopes to now organize an arts and crafts event focused on the effects of plastic pollution.

EPI is thrilled that our Leadership Awards can help inspire these incredible youth to make a difference in their local ecosystems and communities. As Defne says: “I will act as a guide for my community, someone that will engage a variety of groups to help resolve a common problem. This activity will not only form my stance as a supportive mentor to those who want to advance their understanding of the bees, but will also create a new unified group of conservation leaders.”

We are so honored to be able to help these young conservation leaders take action on their passions! We’ll be following up with all three of them later this year to peek in on their projects – join us.

Alumni, Education, News from EPI, Science