Sustainable South Jersey wants to help encourage and acknowledge the youth of Southern New Jersey who have worked to take action against climate change. Drawing inspiration from Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who became famous this Spring for launching a student movement to compel adults to act on global warming, we launched the “Find Our Greta” contest, which ran from June to November. After seeking nominees for several months, nine top youth eco-champion stories were posted on facebook for contest voting.
“We believe in empowering our youth to take action locally, as they are the ones who will be leading our future,” said Ed Cohen, President of Sustainable South Jersey. “It was so inspiring to read the stories of youth in South Jersey who, just like Greta Thunberg is doing in Sweden, are already taking action to make their own communities more resilient to climate change.”
We received stories of how South Jersey youth eco-champions are cleaning up trash in their local neighborhoods; encouraging their school cafeteria to eliminate styrofoam or become 100% plant based; upcycling old t-shirts into reusable bags to eliminate plastic; sewing and selling headbands to raise money for the ocean conservation; and wearing the same dress for 100 days straight.
After one fruitful week, with over 3,700 total posts of youth stories shared, we are excited to announce the winner of the #FindOurGreta contest. Earning a $300 Amazon gift card, the first place prize went to a dedicated group of Medford middle school students from the “Citizen Science Education Program.” This group of students have worked with industry by testing bio-based blacktop sealers at their school, conducted research with NASA/NOAA weather and climate scientists, and traveled overseas to collaborate on environmental issues with a global student population. The second place (Kara Parker of Bordentown) and third place (Joseph Gasperi of Audubon) winners each won a $100 Amazon gift card. All finalists will receive a Sustainable South Jersey tee-shirt and free admission to SSJ’s 2020 events.
“The Citizen Science Education Program (CSEP) is an environmental education movement ready for duplication in other schools across the globe,” said nominator Vicky Gorman. “The focus of the program is to improve scientific literacy in local communities.”
The program’s motto is “Students Making a Difference… Improving Scientific Literacy Around the Globe.” Students host cleanups, plant gardens, or recycle cans. However, their real game-changer end goal is to increase the education and awareness of the people who vote and make decisions for their families, towns, states, and countries. CSEP brings science into the community and allows students to apply their scientific knowledge to the real world.
CSEP formally began in September 2013, with 44 founding members; both 7th and 8th grade. Since that time, over 150 students have become CSEPers. In the last six years, students have organized and conducted three Medford Science Summits and participated in two Burlington County Earth Fairs. The main focus of outreach education has been climate change with an emphasis on the Climate and Ocean Literacy brochures, as well as Water in our World.
Congratulations to all of our nominees and thank you for making the world, especially our home of South Jersey, a better place.