GBM Blog

NYC Students Receive the Wangari Maathai Award for Civic Participation in Sustainability

March 28, 2014 - 06:25PM
Published by Lauren Berger

On Tuesday, March 25th, 2014, two New York City public school students received the Wangari Maathai Award for Civic Participation in Sustainability.  The award, presented to two exceptional public school students that demonstrate academic and extracurricular commitment to environmental stewardship within the urban context, must develop and execute a sustainability-(L-R) Lauren Berger, Jaylen Gregory, Alexandra Gumas, and Eddie Torres. Photo credit: Syd Londonthemed project.  The award is funded by the Municipal Art Society and the Rockefeller Foundation and both students receive a $10,000 cash award, intended to be used for their first year of college.

The Wangari Maathai Award is an annual award that honors Dr. Wangari Maathai.  Dr. Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation said, "Dr. Wangari Maathai's desire to improve the lives of the world's poor and vulnerable communities through environmental stewardship is truly an inspiration, and we are honored to celebrate her life and work with this award.  We applaud this year's winners for their strong commitment to the environment and their communities."

This year's award winners were Alexandra Gumas from Bard High School Early College and Jaylen Gregory from NYC iSchool.  Alexandra spearheaded a bottle cap collection initiative at her high school before bottle caps were recyclable in NYC.  She recycles the caps to construct new bottles and to encourage eco-friendly habits at her high school.  She runs this bi-annual campaign and is looking to reform recycling school wide.  Ms. Gumas is interested in pursing a career in sustainable energy and plans to major in environmental studies.

Jaylen created an action plan to increase the biodiversity of his school's ecosystem after discovering that the environment was home to few species and prone to control by some invasive species.  He led younger students at his school to construct birdhouses and garden beds to create an environment suitable for an array of native birds and plants and cleaned tree pits.  He is also pursuing to create a green roof at his school.  Mr. Gregory plans to pursue a agree in environmental science, and hopes to one day affect environmental change on a global level.

The award was presented to Jaylen and Alexandra by Eddie Torres from the Rockefeller Foundation at the Municipal Art Society's Annual Meeting.  Lauren Berger from the Green Belt Movement - U.S. Office also presented the recipients with a copy of Wangari Maathai's memoir Unbowed.  The students were grateful for both the honor and for the book, Jaylen said he could return the copy of Unbowed his teacher lent him as now he has his own copy.

The event was a great success, celebrating both the legacy of Dr. Wangari Maathai and honoring future leaders who embody her commitment and passion for the environment and communities.