Students Innovate Conservation Approaches for Communities

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Twenty Students Across the Nation Awarded Grants for Projects

The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, congratulated the nationwide winners of the Wildlife Conservation Youth Engagement Grants. The 20 high school students are innovating local approaches to conserve habitats and species. Their projects can serve as models for other communities.

The grants, offered through NEEF’s Planet Connect online community for high school students, are $1,000 each for students to pursue an internship related to their area of interest and carry out a local project that they propose and develop.

One project, for example, involves building and installing a rainwater harvester made of recycled materials at a San Antonio, Texas park. The collected rainwater helps wildlife such as migrating birds lacking sufficient access to fresh water, particularly during drier months and drought conditions. Another project in Groton, N.Y. helps restore the honey bee population for plant pollination. The project also benefits the local high school by educating students and improving pollination of its garden.

NEEF President Diane Wood said, “I am always amazed by the creative and workable ideas students generate when we tap into their observational and problem-solving skills. We congratulate each of the student grantees for their thoughtfulness, initiative and contribution to their communities.”

Jay Slack, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - National Conservation Training Center said, "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proud to partner with NEEF to support such a stellar group of students from around the country. We hope that through these internships, more young people will become aware of the exciting career opportunities that exist in the field of conservation. By engaging today's youth, we seek to foster tomorrow's conservation leaders."

The winners of the 2012 grants, listed alphabetically by state, are:

Anna Yegiyan, North Hollywood High School, North Hollywood, Calif.

Jose Ponce, Kings River High School, Sanger, Calif.

Jackson Feld, Boulder High School, Boulder, Colo.

Jessica Rizzo, Hamden High School, Hamden, Conn.

Colton Montejunas, Island Coast High School, Cape Coral, Fla.

Allison Saavedra, Southwest Miami Senior HS, Miami, Fla.

Kent Keller, St. Ignatius College Prep, Chicago, Ill.

Nimansha Jain, Millard North High School, Omaha, Neb.

Camille Holmes, Groton Central Schools, Groton, N.Y.

Christopher Rettig, Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center, Niskayuna, N.Y.

Michael Brienza, Charlotte Country Day School, Charlotte, N.C.

Madalyn Boultinghouse, Southridge High School, Beaverton, Ore.

Nico Rush, Lakeridge High School, Lake Oswego, Ore.

Thomas Simpson, Carter High School, Knoxville, Tenn.

Sarah Memon, Fort Worth Country Day, Fort Worth, Texas

Sarah Young, home schooled, Pflugerville, Texas

Matthew Mooney, St. Mary’s Hall, San Antonio, Texas

Jilene Penhale, Yorktown High School, Arlington, Va.

Emma Rusnak, Warren County High School, Front Royal, Va.

Ehsan Jafree, Loudoun County Academy of Science, Sterling, Va.

A description of each student’s project and multimedia including currently available photographs are at:

This is the second year that NEEF and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have partnered to offer the Wildlife Conservation Youth Engagement Grants. To learn more about Planet Connect’s student opportunities and resources, visit


About NEEF

The National Environmental Education Foundation is the nation’s leading organization in lifelong environmental learning, connecting people to knowledge they use to improve the quality of their lives and the health of the planet.

To accomplish this, NEEF provides knowledge to trusted professionals and other leaders who, with their credibility, amplify messages to national audiences to solve everyday environmental problems. Learn more at, follow us on Facebook at & Twitter @neefusa.

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Ivan Chan
National Environmental Education Foundation
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