The 2023 Earth Island Institute’s Brower Youth Awards was an inspiring event! On October 17th, Earth Team students and staff convened to celebrate the exceptional contributions of these emerging youth activists and advocates in the field of environmental conservation. The ceremony, held at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, adopted the theme “Moving Forward Together” to recognize the collective efforts of these remarkable leaders and their impact on their communities. This year’s theme serves as a reminder that the most profound changes often arise through collective action and community inspiration.
Meet the Award Winners
Six students received recognition for their outstanding contributions to environmental projects. Each undertook a significant effort to transform their communities and take a step toward a more sustainable future.
1. Riya Chandra: Empowering Young Women in Nature
Hailing from Hastings-On-Hudson, New York, Riya Chandra initiated a program that organizes hikes and nature experiences for young women of color from Westchester and Yonkers. Chandra’s transformative journey began with a life altering backpacking expedition, an experience that instilled newfound confidence and self reliance and inspired Chandra to pass this strength on to others.
2. William Charouhis: Restoring Florida’s Mangrove Forests
William Charouhis started The Million Mangrove Project in his hometown of Miami, Florida. This initiative is dedicated to enhancing the well-being of Miami’s mangrove forests through cleanups and strategic planting while incorporating scientific research to improve the success rate of mangrove plantings.
3. Maanit Goel: Safeguarding Salmon and Orcas
Maanit Goel, a resident of Sammamish, Washington, founded the Washington Youth Ocean & River Conservation Alliance (WYORCA). This organization advocates for the removal of four dams along the Snake River, a critical step in restoring the dwindling Chinook salmon population and protecting the orcas that depend on these fish for sustenance.
4. Angelina Xu: Bringing Composting to Schools
Angelina Xu started Compostology in her hometown of Clarksburg, Maryland. Her initiative introduced an impressive 24 new compost programs to school districts, reaching over 35,000 students, faculty, and staff. Xu’s dedication to composting has made her a noteworthy champion of sustainable practices and created waves in her community.
5. Muskan Walia: Paving the Way for Clean Energy
From Salt Lake City, Utah, Muskan Walia established a coalition that successfully pressured her school district to commit to using 100% clean energy by 2030. Her determination in promoting clean energy solutions showed the power of well-targeted advocacy to achieve widespread change.
6. Katherine Martinez Medina: Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Puerto Rico
Katherine Martinez Medina, a student from Vieques, Puerto Rico, participated in the La Colmena Cimarrona, a women-led agricultural initiative. Their mission is to achieve food sovereignty and foster sustainability in Vieques.
These young leaders underscore the notion that young people have the power to have a significant impact on the environment. Their stories serve as a potent reminder that the future of the environmental movement is bright, and community organizing continues to be a path to real, transformative change. These inspiring students are a testament to the transformative influence of collective action and community inspiration. Their remarkable efforts inspired Earth Team students to continue to advocate for sustainable change in their communities. Thank you to Earth Island for an incredible event!