Raghav Kalyanaraman, 17 years old
Restoring the North Texas Grasslands Ecosystem
For the past two years, high school student Raghav Kalyanaraman has worked with young volunteers to restore North Texas’ black prairie ecosystem. Less than 0.001% of the prairie tallgrass ecosystem has survived development and agricultural land conversion. But what remains supports more than 500 species of native plants and animals, mitigates soil erosion and absorbs water that feeds local aquifers.
Kalyanaraman led the restoration of 5 acres of this grassland at the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary, a process that involved clearing the land of non-native and overrepresented native species and planting native wildflowers and grasses. His team also mitigated soil erosion on trails in Blackland Prairie by installing 118 water bars, to divert water from trails and into vegetated areas, and built enclosures for turtle populations- native boxes in decline. Earlier this year, he founded the nonprofit organization Eagles For Environment to unite his community around grassland restoration work.
Lauren UC Ejiaga, 17 years old
New Orleans, Louisiana
Support education in Louisiana
When she was in eighth grade, Lauren UC Ejiaga created a science fair project about the impact of ozone depletion on Louisiana marsh grasses that won first prize in the competition national STEM, Broadcom masters. This victory made him realize that raising awareness of environmental issues is just as important as researching them. So she decided to start working to educate her peers.
As cohort leader for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Ejiaga founded several native plant restoration projects. She also founded an initiative to spark interest in STEM education and coastal protection among young people through a series of ongoing workshops called Conservation and Restoration Conjunction.
Ilana Cohen, 21 years old
Organize the divestment of fossil fuels
In 2018, Ilana Cohen co-founded the New York chapter of the national youth climate justice coalition, Zero Hour, and organized one of the first national youth climate marches. As a freshman at Harvard University, she helped revive the Divest Harvard campaign, which won a historic victory last fall when the university pledged to give away its $53 billion endowment dollars to the fossil fuel industry.
Cohen has since co-founded Fossil Free Research, an international campaign uniting students, scholars and experts against the toxic influence of big oil company money on climate change research. The campaign aims to protect the academic freedom of researchers as their work ultimately influences climate discourse and policy. Already, Fossil Free Research has released an open letter signed by more than 740 academics endorsing its call, organized international direct action to hold major universities accountable, and formed a coalition to coordinate efforts on college campuses.
Save the date: Join us for the 2022 Brower Youth Awards celebration on October 18 at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, CA. To register, visit: broweryyouthawards.org.
Amara Ifeji, 20 years old
Bringing new voices to the environmental movement
Amara Ifeji recognized early on that her passion for the environment was something that marginalized communities like hers often had little opportunity to explore. So in 2018, she began facilitating environmental learning opportunities for other students of color at her high school. Ifeji then became one of the directors of the Maine Environmental Changemakers Network, an intergenerational group of over 400 young people from diverse backgrounds advocating for a more just, inclusive and equitable environmental movement.
In 2021, Ifeji coordinated Maine’s first-ever Climate Education Summit focused on listening to youth’s vision for a climate-literate Maine. Ifeji helped create and implement a bill that funds over $2 million for climate education in the state.
Hamid Torabzadeh, 17 years old
Long Beach, California
Advancing Disaster Preparedness and Environmental Justice
Hamid Torabzadeh has worked to expand the role of youth and young adults in alleviating human suffering in the face of increasing climate and public health disasters.
Torabzadeh currently directs the American Red Cross Readyteens program in Los Angeles, which provides interactive programs to high school students in Los Angeles County and through national American Red Cross networks. The programs educate young people about disaster preparedness, response and recovery. readyteens trains young people in CPR/first aid, triage, emergency communications, etc., with a focus on “vulnerable communities” identified by the Red Cross where young people are most likely to cope to climate-related emergencies due to historical discrimination, geographic location, and socio-economic conditions.
Torabzadeh has helped the program reach more than 10,000 youth volunteers in the United States, train some 350 high school students in Los Angeles, and educate more than 1,000 households in Los Angeles County about fire and earthquake safety. .
Annika Weber, 18 years old
Push for carbon neutrality
Annika Weber has been involved in environmental activism since she joined her school’s “green team” in third grade. In middle school, she helped set up an urban farm, and in high school, she was part of two youth-led climate justice organizations. But as burnout among young activists became widespread, Weber saw the need for a group that coordinated youth passion with adult experience for lasting, tangible results. So, in early 2021, she co-founded the North West School Carbon Neutral Task Force, a group of students, parents, and teachers who researched how her high school could become carbon neutral. 2030.
The task force surveyed the community, collected baseline data and prepared a report to present to the school administration last winter. Her school is now in the final process of adopting the task force recommendations and could soon be the first K-12 school in the nation to set a carbon neutral goal that does not use carbon offsets.