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Gastonia, North Carolina Students Receive Presidential Environmental Youth Award

Release Date: 08/12/2014
Contact Information: Danielle Jackson, (404) 562-9182 (Direct), (404) 562-8400 (Main),

ATLANTA- Today the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded Katie Danis, Mary Hunter Russell, and Grace Wynkoop with the President’s Environmental Youth Award. The trio of students from Gastonia, North Carolina is known as The Pollution Solution team (TPSt)..

The ceremony at the White house included 17 teachers and 60 students from across the nation for their contributions to environmental education and stewardship. The awardees demonstrated the creativity, innovation, leadership and passion for community engagement needed to face difficult environmental challenges. Teachers and students attending the ceremony participated in a workshop led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to discuss climate and best practices in the field of climate education.

The now rising ninth graders found a major threat to the Catawba River in the form of polluted storm water. The discovery was the catalyst for a grassroots effort by the teens to “Save the Catawba River: One yard at a Time.” Informational kits, built by the girls from household items they had on hand, are being used in classrooms to teach students about what causes storm water pollution and how it can be stopped. The team tested the program with the Gaston Day School fourth-grade students. Kids loved watching how everyday living creates pollution and learning how simple steps, like picking up after your dog or bagging your yard waste keep the storm water drains clean and the river healthy.

The annual PEYA and PIAEE competitions recognize outstanding student leaders in environmental stewardship and exceptional K-12 teachers employing innovative approaches to environmental education in their schools. These students and teachers creatively utilize their local ecosystems, environment, community and culture as a context for learning.

This year, students are receiving awards for projects including activities such as creating a novel water purification method, assessing apples as a sustainable fuel source, and reducing the carbon footprint of a school to help combat climate change. Teachers being honored this year have employed interactive, hands-on learning projects such as opening a marine science station, designing a solar powered garden irrigation system, building a nature trail, and connecting students to their natural surroundings through field studies.

For details on the new PEYA winners, visit:

For details on the new PIAEE and Bartlett Award winners, visit

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