Brower Youth Awards

“This is your chance, once a year, to fill up your well with hope” proclaimed Van Jones, who, along with Julia Butterfly Hill (over the hill for this crowd at age 31), performed the dynamic hosting duties for the sixth annual Brower Youth Awards. A junior version of the Goldman Environmental Prize awards ceremony, the Brower Youth Awards honored seven young environmental leaders in an evening filled with inspiration, poetry, and music at the Calvin Simmons Auditorium in Oakland. The award honors David Brower, who in his lifetime, helped establish nine national parks and pioneered new ways to protect threatened communities and wild places using photography, publishing, film, law, and advertising.

I was only able to stay for the first half of the program, but got to see and hear about the work of three remarkable young people:

Jessica Remington, who as a senior in high school, formed a nonprofit organization called One World Youth Project to pair schools around the world to promote cultural understanding, leadership, and community service (each “sister school” team works jointly on one of the millennium development goals set forth by the United Nations Development Program). Jessica currently works with schools in 16 countries with a team of volunteer “cultural ambassadors”. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, students at a school in Mongolia raised $50,000 for its devastated sister school in Lake Ponchitrane.

Andrea Garza, who as a 13-year old in Brownsville, Texas, founded Esperanza Unida, which successfully lobbied against a nuclear dump in her home town, as well as setting up citizen watches to report mistreatment of Mexicans by the border patrol. Now, at age 22, she is a community organizer with Young Women United, a group started by and serving young women of color. This year, Young Women United successfully lobbied their school board to allow comprehensive sex education in the schools.

Zander Srodes, who as an 11-year old, started talking to school children about what they can do to help save the Loggerhead sea turtles from extinction. Now 15, he has received over 1,000 requests to give his “Turtle Talks”, which incorporate ping pong balls to illustrate turtle eggs, a costume to depict the various parts of the turtle, rub-on tattoos of turtles, and an activity book to hand out at the end of his presentations.My well is brimming.

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