A children's book about gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park, a leadership development workshop in the Galapagos Islands, a photovoltaic solar panel array in Idaho, and a parking lot greenhouse in Montana, somewhat surprisingly, have a lot in common. These diverse conservation project ideas are going to be made a reality by this year's Ecology Project International (EPI) Alumni Leadership Award recipients. While the winners' ages, course locations, and communities may differ, these students are united by their exceptional leadership skills, passion for sustainability, and project ideas that aim to make our Earth a more habitable environment for all.
The Alumni Leadership Award gives EPI alumni an opportunity to fund conservation projects of their own design, transferring the skills and values learned in the field to their respective communities. Students who apply are eligible to win up to $500 to support their project development. Our 2022 winners are Sebastian (22), Puma (15), Cooper (16), Sasha (17), and Ian (17).
We're excited to introduce you to each of our winners and look forward to following each students' story as their projects evolve.
Green Spaces & Leadership in the Galapagos Islands
Sebastian finished his local EPI Galapagos course ready to catalyze positive change in his own backyard. Serving as a representative on the Santa Cruz Youth Advisory Council, Sebastian sees empowering young people as fundamental in protecting the Galapagos ecosystem. Educating and inspiring young conservation leaders are key components of Sebastian's work. The project involves both environmental leadership workshops for local youth and the development of more green spaces in Galapagos neighborhoods.
"While the Galapagos is a global leader in conservation, there are still many actions that need to be taken. The opportunity offered by EPI to lead this project is a big step in becoming a leader in my community, and I believe the youth will also greatly benefit from this process." - Sebastian, 22
A Book to Inspire Compassion
Many, many, miles northeast of Sebastian, Puma resides in Connecticut and plans to utilize a different approach to educate young conservation-minded leaders. Puma is illustrating a children's book about the importance of the gray wolf as a keystone species in the Yellowstone ecosystem, with hopes of reducing negative connotations about the vulnerable animal.
Puma plans to collaborate with an author who has a series of environmental children's books and will use her award to cover production costs.
"Most children have books that open their eyes to new things, books that help inspire them, shape their path and who they want to be. I personally remember several wonderful books that changed my view of the outdoors and my goals in life, I would like my book to be that book for even just one child. I believe that stories have a ripple effect, a few words and images can change someone’s world, and that person can then go out to change everyone else’s worlds." - Puma, 15
Solar Panels for Moscow
Ian, another Yellowstone alum, is bringing climate solutions to his local school district in Moscow, Idaho with his Solar Bears project. "Solar Bears will provide schools in Moscow with 11 sets of educational solar panels and one full-size solar panel," wrote Ian.
"Students at the schools will be given a lesson about how solar panels work physically, on homes and businesses, and at the utility-scale. Students will also be able to measure the electricity being produced from the demonstration solar panels. With the Solar Bears project, I am excited to be able to teach the next generation of leaders, innovators, and community members about the advantages and disadvantages of clean energy generation." - Ian, 17
Renovation, Insulation, Inspiration!
Providing real-world conservation examples for students is the goal of Sasha and Cooper's greenhouse project, as well. The greenhouse in the parking lot of Hellgate High School in Missoula, Montana functions to unite the student body over the power of sustainably grown local produce. Sasha and Cooper will use their award to renovate the greenhouse, extending the growing season throughout the harsh Montana winters.
"Our plans to renovate and continue the ongoing project and dream that is our school’s greenhouse are founded in the belief that we can inspire some small amount of environmental action within the community." - Sasha, 17 & Cooper, 16
Alumni Leadership Award applicants are required to submit a detailed budget and cover letter, identify a mentor, and answer multiple short essay questions when applying for the award. EPI's Alumni Leadership Award Selection Committee evaluates applications based on the project's financial feasibility, a realistic timeline, impact on a wider audience, and opportunity for leadership development. All of our 2022 winners excelled in these categories, and we can't wait to see how our funding bolsters their ingenuity. Keep up with the progress of each project by following our newsletters and blogs!