2020 was a tumultuous year, to say the least. However, despite the chaos and uncertainty of a global pandemic, our youth grant recipients forged ahead and doubled down on their commitments to protect our blue planet. From planning the opening of eco-friendly online stores to organizing COVID-safe clean-up flotillas, YOCS grant recipients are staying busy and vigilant. That's why we're incredibly humbled and excited to highlight the faces and projects of our 2020-2021 youth grant recipients. Read about their upcoming work and their passions below.
Alexandra Adamo is using her grant to launch Eco-SHOP, an organization dedicated to providing resources and information regarding sustainable shopping. Eco-SHOP is using its YOCS funding to buy materials to create reusable totes. Along with selling tote bags on their website and Instagram (@ecoshop_usa), eco-SHOP will use its digital platform as a tool to educate followers about sustainable shopping.
Kayla Fowler is using her YOCS grant to begin development on an ocean conservation-themed children's book which will feature characters like Emma the turtle and Wellie the dolphin. Kayla’s book is designed to raise awareness about marine life and conservation. Writing to us about her project, Kayla said: "The goal for me is to raise awareness in young kids of the need for ocean conservation, but in a way that is both fun and engaging." Keep an eye out for her book later this year.
Next up is Anya Gupta and her project: Pennies for Penguins. Her goal is to help move penguins off of the endangered species list. To do this, her work addresses the ways Climate Change, habitat destruction, and plastic waste affect the health of penguin populations. Through her website, vlogs, and social platforms, she works to educate families on the necessity of reusable goods, on the harms of single-use plastics, and on a myriad of other ways they can help preserve the planet.
The next grant recipient, Nate Harrison, is a ten-year-old conservationist and ocean health/marine life activist. His latest project, a beautifully illustrated children’s book titled, “One Reef”, focuses on the importance of coral reefs and the impact of human (in)action. He hopes that his book will help educate and inspire the next generation of young environmentalists.
lana Szarf and her South Broward High School club, Plastic-Free Mermaids, will use their YOCS grant to tackle the local plastic pollution crisis. Ilana and the club hold virtual meetings twice a month and discuss different ways to approach the plastic pollution crisis amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The club regularly interacts with their Florida state legislators to urge them to pass laws that ban single-use plastics. Likewise, they also strive to protect the beauty of their shores in real-time by holding socially distant beach clean-ups.
Julia Aveline-Rabenjoro is a 13-year-old French national who lives in Sabah, Borneo. Her project, Seed of Hope, works to raise money for marine conservation organizations in Borneo. As a diver, she's been witness to countless examples of pollution, ghost netting, reef destruction, and marine biodiversity loss. Her goals are to help reduce single-use plastic in Borneo and to raise as much awareness as possible via interviews on her Facebook page and through her ebooks - which she plans to release later this year.
Through their Protect our Prehistoric Pals project, students at River Valley Charter School will use their YOCS grant funding to organize marsh cleanups to help ensure horseshoe crab habitat is free of debris. Additionally, they will lead efforts to educate visitors at the Parker River National Wildlife River, as well as their peers, about the importance of horseshoe crabs.
Owen Studdiford is using his YOCS grant to clean up the trash and old fishing equipment that gets stuck in Charlotte Harbor's mangrove forests. After fishing with his dad and being dismayed by the sight of trash choking up his favorite fishing spots, Owen decided to take action. To protect his fishing grounds and the wildlife that lives there, he plans to dedicate a set number of days to clean up Charlotte Harbor.
Marie Nancy Chimanuka is also one of our international grant recipients. She plans to use her YOCS grant to recover the recyclable waste that collects on Lake Kivu's shores. She and her allies chose to tackle this issue because the water at Lake Kivu is crucial to the health, economy, and diets of the Lake Kivu community and the surrounding river delta. Stay tuned for more updates on the Lake Kivu cleanup.
In a futuristic and inspiring use of his YOCS grant, Artash Nath is using his funding to build a low-cost robotic vehicle. The bot will take water quality measurements and photographs of Lake Ontario. This vehicle will be powered by open-source electronics such as Arduino. Additionally, some of the instruments on the bot are going to be designed at home using everyday materials. The instructions on how to build the vehicle, the software code used, and the data obtained from the vehicle will be posted online - so that the project can be replicated by anyone who is interested in water quality data collection.
Also gracing the international scene is Dr. Paresh Poriya and the Coastal Clean-Up Campaign. This campaign will be organized on different coasts of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat state. Targeting pilgrimage and tourist areas, bachelor, master students, and Ph.D. research scholars of various institutes will create enticing slogans and posters that raise awareness about plastic pollution in the Eastern state of India.
Kaeleigh Belanger is using her YOCS grant to launch Save Our Planet, Save Our Lives. It's a project that will be designed to remove trash from the Merrimack River. Kaeleigh will organize volunteers to go out in kayaks and small boats to fish trash out of the water before it makes its way to the ocean. Save Our Planet, Save Our Lives will also organize beach clean-ups in trash hotspots along the river basin. Their hope is to reduce the entanglement and ingestion of microplastics by marine life while educating boaters, beachgoers, and their classmates.
Leah Edwards and the Fort Lauderdale High School Surfrider Environmental Club are working to educate and motivate their community on issues of environmental awareness. With the YOCS grant, they plan on purchasing a composting bin and materials to create a school garden that will divert organic waste from landfills and from producing greenhouse gases. This will be a project that furthers their advocacy efforts, in addition to their in-school bottle water bottle refilling stations and bottle cap mural.
Maya Lander and the Lakewood Ranch High School Marine Conservation Club are using their YOCS grant to fund the installation of a water bottle refill station on campus. It will be the first at their school and will act as a revolutionary yet simple way to curb the use of single-use plastics at their school. To learn more about their project, check out their Instagram @lrhs_marine.
This summer, Sierra Pargett and the Cape Ann Boat Landing Clean-Up plan to collect, sort, count, log, and properly dispose of the debris from a different landing each Saturday while adhering to the current COVID guidelines. Sierra and her crew will be qualifying the debris by categories, as described on the Rozalia long sheet. The information will then be input into the Marine Debris Tracker, an international marine database sponsored by National Geographic. To promote public awareness, she will post a picture of the trash at the boat landing with all participants and debris totals on the Cape Ann Boat Landing Clean-up Facebook, seascoutshipno.5, and submit her findings to the local paper.
Camille Rivera plans to use her grant to launch a book reading and storytelling event titled "Ocean Adventures with Cory." Focusing on coral reef awareness, this event will educate young kids on pressing marine conservation issues. As Camille writes: "Storybooks are one way to bring together youth and coastal kids to enhance reading and also ocean literacy in Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental, Philippines! By doing this kind of program, we are not only educating kids, these storybooks will also be printed for the local teachers so they can continue teaching about the importance of coral reefs every year!"
The Nauticus Youth Action Council is also a 2020-2021 YOCS grant recipient. They will be using their funds to host a clean-up day and educate their community about environmental stewardship activities they can take part in locally and at home. This will including setting up virtual events that community members can take part in independently and safely.
Working with the Mass Oyster Project, Nicolette Stamos will collect water samples from the Upweller where the oysters are being raised. She'll document and take pictures of the organic material in the samples and check water quality (Temperature, Salinity, DO). Her work is a part of a baseline collection effort for the waters in the Upweller and Gloucester harbor. With this information, the Mass Oyster Project can compare future Upweller and Harbor water data to the baseline and notice any anomalies that may be concerning.
Last but not least amongst our 2020-2021 grant recipients are Michelle and Jeremy Muchilwa and their campaign: Bring Back Lake Victoria. Bring Back Lake Victoria seeks to restore Lake Victoria to its pristine condition and to eradicate plastic pollution in the lake. Michelle and Jeremy are creating a platform for different people to come together and work towards solving the problem of plastic pollution in the lake. In their words: "Plastic pollution is more than just an environmental problem, it is destroying livelihoods and affecting human health." As such, they have been executing a multi-prong approach to raise awareness, take direct action, and conduct research on this pressing issue.
A special thanks to the Johnson Ohana Foundation, PopSockets, the Captain Planet Foundation, Klean Kanteen, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, and our individual donors for their generous support of our Youth Ocean Conservation Summit mini-grant program and to the team at Mote Marine Laboratory for making this grant program possible!