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Watsonville students honored with President’s Environmental Youth Award

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Michele Huitric (

SAN FRANCISCO – Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that a group of fifth grade students at Mount Madonna School in Watsonville will receive the 2016 President’s Environmental Youth Award for their work to protect the Western Snowy Plover. This national award is presented each year to K-12 students who demonstrate the initiative, creativity, and problem-solving skills needed to address environmental problems and find sustainable solutions.

“Today, we are pleased to honor these impressive young leaders, who demonstrate the impact that a few individuals can make to protect our environment,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These students are empowering their peers, educating their communities, and demonstrating the STEM skills needed for this country to thrive in the global economy.”

The 17 Mount Madonna School students won the award for their year-long project focused on environmental threats faced by the Western Snowy Plover, a threatened shorebird found along the California coastline. The students were specifically concerned with habitat encroachment and pollution from plastic, both of which contribute to declining numbers of the bird.

Over the 2016 school year, the students worked with a local biologist to write reports and create displays on environmental threats and conservation efforts related to the Western Snowy Plover. Additional activities included creating a 30-minute educational film; reestablishing habitat at a local state beach by planting native plants; and creating nesting sites in salt flats near Elkhorn Slough. The group also designed and tested a small-scale sand dune to assess its ability to hold a plover nest exposed to the elements.

"I am continually inspired by the passion of my students as they find their voice to create positive change within the world,” said Jessica Cambell, a fifth-grade teacher at Mount Madonna School. “This award is a great honor as it is recognition of their hard work and dedication to create solutions to protect our environment for their generation and future generations."

The PEYA program promotes awareness of our nation's natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. Since 1971, the President of the United States has joined with EPA to recognize young people for protecting our nation's air, water, land and ecology. It is one of the most important ways EPA and the Administration demonstrate commitment to environmental stewardship efforts created and conducted by our nation's youth.

For information on environmental education at EPA, visit:

For details on the new PEYA winners, visit: