14 outstanding PGC participants from around the globe were selected to join Turning Green in the San Francisco Bay Area for the PGC Finals this November (with 3 joining remote). Finalists were chosen based on points accrued, depth and breadth of engagement, number of challenge wins, quality of work, a final exam, and video recap of their PGC journey.
The Finals brought together like-minded peers with an esteemed group of eco leaders, speakers, mentors, ambassadors and partners to support, equip and propel this year’s class of PGC Finalists with the tools, resources and know-how needed to rise as leaders with their Climate Action Projects and beyond. Content covered a multitude of topics to deepen changemaking capacity on campuses and across communities, providing an opportunity for students to share experiences, learnings, best practices and ideas and gain insight, perspective and skills.
On the last day, each Finalist presented about their PGC experience and Climate Action Project (CAP) to an audience and panel of judges. CAP seed funding was awarded to all projects, with four receiving additional tiered awards. Finalists then developed, built, refined and implemented CAPs through April, when they presented virtually upon completion at the PGC Finals Part 2.
Judges named Ikem-Nwosu Promise — from Nigerian Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Gbaramatu Kingdom in Nigeria — as the PGC Champion and presented the $5,000 Green Award and grand prize package. Vincent Kreft from Bloomington High School North in Bloomington, Indiana took Second Place, while George Warfel from Team LCDS Green Committee at Lancaster Country Day School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was named Third Place winner.
PGC 2021 Finalists
Myah Brody, Champlain College, Burlington, Vermont
Myah is a freshman at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. She has a lifelong passion for wildlife and the environment, and is currently majoring in Environmental Policy with a likely switch to specialize in Wildlife and Forestry. She was the president of the Conservation Club at her high school for three years and competed in the Envirothon Competitions at the state level in Pennsylvania for all four years.
“I’ve learned that sustainability is something that is best shared and getting to learn about it with others is the best way to do that. I’m going to start using my voice more often. I’m going to keep working on projects at my school and my community to create a more sustainable world.”
Five words to describe PGC: Passionate, Community, Review, Dedication, Joy
Amy Choi, The Meadows School, Las Vegas, Nevada
A junior attending the Meadows School, Amy hopes to bring climate reform to Las Vegas, Nevada. She enjoys hiking with her friends and family, singing music and playing instruments, such as the guitar, ukulele and piano. Additionally, she enjoys writing short stories, articles, and to a lesser extent, poetry. Amy strongly believes in finding intersections between climate change and different aspects of people’s lives, and using their talents to further the climate campaign. For her, this means maintaining a balance between pursuing climate advocacy through politics and researching climate solutions through STEM. She hopes to accomplish this through the FXB climate advocacy program, her local Citizen’s Climate Lobby chapter, and engaging in research at her local college regarding the effectiveness of different bioremediation techniques. Lastly, as the president of her school’s Green Club, Amy wishes to bring about educational reform to incorporate climate education, initiate a composting system, reform the current recycling program, and involve her school more in local political action.
“I’ve learned to use my voice. I’ve learned how to be more outspoken for an issue that has been silenced for too long. While I was aware of the different ways in which climate injustice affects different sectors of one’s life, my mindset, rather than the world around me, was really the thing that changed.”
Five words to describe PGC: Thought-provoking, Innovative, Engaging, Comprehensive, Collaborative
Ilay Ghavidel, Farzanegan NODET High School, Gonbad-e-Kavus, Iran
Ilay is a 16-year-old Turkmen girl born in Gonbad-e Kavus in the Golestan province of Iran and studying science at Farzanegan NODET High School. Her mother taught her about the problems Mother Nature faces and she began observing changes in her surroundings: no snowy winters, hotter summers, dry lakes in which she used to play, and water shortages. These obvious changes, along with the fact that few people care, led her to dedicate time and energy to tackle the problems, but she did not know how until Project Green Challenge. When she signed up, she did not expect it to raise her awareness to such an extent that she now feels like she knew nothing about the environment before participating in PGC. November 1st Ilay is much more knowledgeable, aspiring, motivated, and conscious than October 1st Ilay, as the knowledge she gained regarding nature in that single month exceeds all others in her entire life. Moreover, she knows that majoring in Environmental Sciences would be a great choice to fulfill her soul.
“I always knew that when I grew up, I would create big positive change in this world, to give it back to the universe, but PGC made me find out that I do not need to reach a certain age to be able to make change! I found the power of one.”
Five words to describe PGC: Surprised, Educated, Persevered, Connected, Supported
Vincent Kreft, Bloomington High School North, Bloomington, Indiana
Vincent is a junior at Bloomington High School North in Bloomington, Indiana. Vincent currently serves as captain of the Science Olympiad team and a leader of the Environmental Club. He is enthralled by the sciences and has a strong passion for math. In the future, Vincent hopes to study chemistry with an emphasis on green chemistry solutions. Vincent enjoys playing the piano and making music with the school’s Jazz Band. He also enjoys competing with his hockey team, currently serving as the JV captain. Vincent is a bilingual French and American citizen and an active member of Surf Rider Foundation Europe. Vincent enjoys spending his free time with friends, family, and a good manga.
“I know that climate change is a massive global issue that my generation will have to address, but I did not know that I could start addressing it now. I have learned that I can have a ripple effect and influence more than just my local network.”
Five words to describe PGC: Challenging, Uniting, Inspiring, Educational, Powerful
William Layman, Alexandria City High School, Alexandria, Virginia
Will is a senior at Alexandria City High School in Alexandria, Virginia. He is passionate about protecting nature and saving the environment from negative human impacts. He’s particularly interested in the ocean and strives to find solutions to marine pollution and ocean acidification. Because of these interests, he wants to pursue either marine biology or oceanography in college so that he can study his passion, while also finding ways to save it. Will participated in Project Green Challenge because he believes that raising awareness and educating people is a great way to ensure sustainable solutions and concrete change.
“I was interested in sustainability, but I had no real ideas on concrete changes that I could make in my own life. PGC has emphasized that communication and outreach are two great ways to battle climate change. I will be a changemaker by continuing to educate myself about environmental issues and spreading that information.”
Five words to describe PGC: Fun, Educational, Interesting, Beneficial, Important
Promise Ikem-Nwosu, Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Gbaramatu, Nigeria
Promise is from Anambra State in Nigeria. He is a second year student at the Nigerian Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State, studying Marine Environment and Pollution Control. He was born and brought up in Rivers State, where he developed passion for the marine environment because of the harm he observed crude oil and natural gas exploitation in the Niger Delta region causing the people and their beloved home. He is presently seeking ways to stop the exploration of fossil fuels through his course of study, and solutions to help curb marine pollution. In his free time, Promise enjoys meeting new friends, reading articles, listening to music, and playing football.
“I learned that I could do anything I am determined to do, despite my disadvantages. I learned that I possess great potential in making a difference, and that’s a huge discovery. We’re all in this together, and no voice is too little to make an impact.”
Five words to describe PGC: Extraordinary, Inquisitive, Enticing, Exciting, Fantabulous
Ayanna Snowden, Bergen County Technical High School, Teterboro, NJ
Ayanna is from Fort Lee, New Jersey, and is a junior at Bergen County Technical High School in Teterboro, New Jersey. She has always had a strong love and appreciation for nature, stopping to look at each flower as a child while on walks, much to her parent’s detriment. Nonetheless, she has channeled this love for nature into her advocacy and began exploring the intersections that the climate crisis has with preexisting social justice issues. She is now very passionate about environmental justice and works on local initiatives towards this cause. In her free time, she likes to listen to music, crochet, and read.
“After 30 days of powerful work, I will continue to amplify my voice, educate my community, and demand change. Going forward, I do not plan to stop sparking discussions about climate and will continue to speak on the environmental issues I am most passionate about.”
Five words to describe PGC: Inspirational, Motivational, Growth, Community-building, Empowering
Lucas Sher of Team Atmospheric Litter Stoppers, Jericho High School, Jericho, NY
Lucas is a Junior attending Jericho High School in Long Island, New York. He represents Team Atmospheric Litter Stoppers, including members Andrés deGrasse and Shiv Mohan, in PGC 2021. Lucas is a hardworking student who embraces his Brazilian heritage and loves to spend time with family and friends. Lucas enjoys participating in sports, as well as reading scientific literature in his free time. He always enjoys a challenge and pushes himself to reach great achievement. Lucas not only hopes to raise awareness about the environment, but also to help aid in solving environmental issues.
“We not only want to help the environment, but also future generations as well. The earth we live on is sacred and we need to protect it, as we take so much from it to aid us in our everyday lives. With the wisdom, knowledge, and problem solving skills we learned from PGC, we hope to inspire others to make change in their lives and work.”
Five words to describe PGC: Exciting, Insightful, Eye-Opening, Strenuous, Relationship-Building
Luisa Restrepo of Team Earthlings, Colegio Nueva Granada, Bogotá, Colombia
Luisa is a second-year high school student at Colegio Nueva Granada. She was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, where she fell in love with the surrounding nature and became very interested in the environment. Her proximity to nature and the infinite amount of biodiversity in the country instilled deep respect and appreciation for environmental conservation in her. Luisa and her teammates Vasu Agarwal and Guadalupe Schmidt-Mumm came together to advocate for change in their community through their school and Project Green Challenge. In her free time, Luisa enjoys playing basketball, cooking, listening to music, and connecting with nature, friends, and family.
“As a kid, I was taught about recycling and not wasting food or water, but during PGC, I understood that there are so many other ways to make our communities more sustainable. Behind every action we take, there is always something we can do to reduce our footprint. It’s not as hard as it seems.”
Five words to describe PGC: Reflective, Productive, Inspiring, Innovative, Educational
Natalia Muralles of Team Green Power, Universidad Anáhuac Mayab, Yucatán, México
Natalia is passionate about nature and loves to collaborate with others. She is originally from Guatemala and currently studies Environmental Engineering at the Anáhuac Mayab University in Mérida, México, due to her desire to make change in the management of resources by industries and people. In Guatemala, the application of effective measures and laws on the subject has only just begun, and there is no public policy to make people aware of the subject. She attended high school at the Vista Hermosa Bilingual School in Guatemala and her sophomore year, she carried out an intercultural exchange for two months in Indiana, USA. During that time, she was able to learn about and share with another culture, one where environmental norms are already established and people express their environmental ethics, however consumption habits increase societal environmental impact. Natalia loves children; during the pandemic, she tutored two children for ten months, testing her creative skills. Natalia believes that the future of sustainability begins by sowing the idea through education. During her participation in Project Green Challenge, she learned the importance of good communication with teammates Daniela Thomas Salas, Mariana Garcia Alvarez, and Mariah Collado Woolrich, despite the difficulties of the pandemic, and discovered that through small actions, big change can be created.
“I have learned the huge impact my actions have on pollution, climate change, fair work and trade in my immediate and global community. Not everyone has the same opportunities as us, and we must seek climate and social justice with our actions and activism.”
Five words to describe PGC: Innovation, Creativity, Responsibility, Team Work
Sofia Seidelmann of Team JYSM, Edina High School, Edina, Minnesota
Sofia is a Junior who attends Edina High School in Minnesota. She joined Project Green Challenge along with her teammates Julia Domingo, Yeshe Jangchup, and Maria Goulakova, because she thought it would be a great opportunity to get involved in environmental activism. Before this challenge, she was not the most environmentally conscious person, but after learning all of these things throughout PGC, she has become aware of how much she was harming our planet before and strives to help heal our earth as much as possible!
“I now know the steps that can be taken to improve the state of our world and the main issues that are causing the harm. I felt like I couldn’t make a difference but now, instead of being scared of the world, the world feels like a work in progress. Now every news article I read, I can worry about the state of the world in a solution-based manner.”
Five words to describe PGC: Interesting, Informative, Eye-opening, Inspiring, Confidence-boosting
George Warfel of Team LCDS Green Committee #1, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
George Warfel is a 17-year-old senior at Lancaster Country Day School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is very passionate about sustainability and climate change activism, stemming from his inherent love for nature, and more specifically, the ocean. George has been obsessed by the ocean from a young age, and wants to protect it at any cost. He hopes to volunteer for the Coral Restoration Foundation this summer to restore the vitality of endangered Caribbean coral species. George is the president of the LCDS Green Committee, his school’s sustainability club, and joins the PGC Finals to represent teammates Laurel Marx, Caterina Manfrin and Lewis Baxter. George is currently working hard to complete projects, such as: school-wide composting, expansion of community gardens, and installation of solar panels on campus. George loves science, specifically biology and chemistry, and wants to major in chemical engineering and biochemistry in college and apply this knowledge to saving coral reefs. This year, he is performing a science fair project that will investigate thraustochytrids, an important coral symbiont, hoping to learn more about their structure and function. Project Green Challenge has been a thoroughly enjoyable educational and leadership experience. It really opened his eyes to issues, and he is excited to take action on them in his community.
“I want to take the issues of climate change and environmental injustice and make them more accessible to my community through education. By tackling smaller-scale problems first, our community will have built a strong foundation on which more impactful sustainable infrastructure can be built.”
Five words to describe PGC: Educational, Inspirational, Determination, Shocking, Enabling
Shivangi Choudhary of Team Nifty, University of Delhi, Delhi, India
Shivangi is an incoming freshman at the University of Delhi, India. She plans to major in economics and minor in legal studies. Born and raised in New Delhi, a city of wealth and slums, she would often find herself in the neighborhoods of Sultanpur, a historically red-lined sector of South Delhi without access to clean water or air, and the place where she was first exposed to entrenched inequality in society. Shivangi has always been passionate about social justice and education. Alongside teammates Jia Kapoor and Ishita Garg, PGC was her first dive into conscious living; this 30-day rigorous and riveting program broadened her perspective of issues surrounding climate change, an impending crisis that she believes has been downplayed for far too long. She hopes to employ the skills she gained during PGC and previous work experience with NGOs and NPOs in advocating for climate justice in her community. Upon graduation, she aims to gain experience to help implement economically efficient policy interventions. Fun fact: when not preparing for mock trials and MUNs, she can be found watching reruns of Suits.
“Every aspect of nature holds significance.We are not responsible for managing the world; it knows how to go with the flow. Rather we should learn how to manage ourselves so that we don’t disturb nature’s flow. We need to change ourselves first, the rest will fall in line.
Five words to describe PGC: Revolutionizing, Meaningful, Enriching, Exhilarating, Rigorous
Ariana Bracamonte of Team Q’UMIR LLAQTA, Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria, Lima, Perú
Ariana is a young Peruvian university student in biomedical engineering, who resides in Lima, Perú. She likes animal and plant life, and takes good care of her animals and garden. At the age of 20, she belongs to the Q’umir Llaqta group, which seeks to represent a change in the ecological consciousness of Perú and the world. Ariana is representing her teammates Shirley Cantaro Ramirez, Angie Nicole Ramirez Florian, and Luis Valerio Cerna Ramirez in the PGC Finals.
“We want to raise awareness to stop climate degradation because it is an issue that involves every person on the planet to leave a healthy planet to future generations. There are solutions for the climate crisis; we must seek them, spread them and apply the solutions for a better world.”
Five words to describe PGC: Immersive, Extraordinary, Educational, Incentive, Wonderful
PGC 2021: Climate Action Projects
Natalia Muralles: Plogging in Yucatán
“Plogging” is the act of picking up trash and litter while jogging. GoOcean, a Plogging Club, was created so people could join activities and receive information about the contamination occurring on Yucatán’s beaches and its consequences. An assessment identified that the majority of garbage comes from the local town. Developing environmental educational materials about the ocean and the importance of conservation are the goals of this CAP.
Sofia Seidelmann: Composting at Edina High School
The goal of this CAP was originally to create a composting program at Edina High School and eliminate the use of toxic styrofoam lunch trays by switching to compostable trays. Unfortunately, the school administration did not support this effort, so the focus has shifted to teaching individuals in the community about the negative impact that styrofoam has on the environment, while providing various sustainable solutions to the problem.
Will Layman: Solar Panels for Alexandria City High School
This CAP aims to install solar panels on the roof of Alexandria City High School in Alexandria, Virginia and spread awareness about the viability of solar energy throughout the community. A curriculum will be developed to teach the basics and logistics of solar energy, utilizing outdoor labs with solar modules that measure energy output in different conditions, which will be used for future students.
Myah Brody: Native Bee Populations in Vermont
By supporting the native bee population, this CAP seeks to increase biodiversity at Champlain College. An educational handbook about bees was developed, which includes the impact of humans on bees, reasons for population decline, and an explanation of the species to help inform people. A craft and learn event was held, inspiring students to learn more about bees, answer questions and clear up any misconceptions.
Promise Ikem-Nwosu: Eliminating Plastic Pollution in the Niger Delta
The focus of this CAP is to inform the public about climate change and its impact on local ecosystems, especially the role of single-use plastics and fossil fuels. Community education efforts about ocean conservation and environmental justice included newspaper articles, radio appearances, presentations at elementary schools, and collaboration with university administration. In addition, solar panels have been installed at the university to reduce fossil fuel dependence.
Luisa Restrepo: Environmental Awareness
Interactive educational programs will be developed and implemented to bring middle and high school students together to learn about environmental and social justice issues, including specific steps and solutions to mitigate such problems. The goal of this CAP is to provide younger students with information and a guide for how to begin taking action.
Vincent Kreft: Increasing Solar Energy in Indiana
To increase solar capacity, this CAP first measured climate anxiety in the community. It went on to calculate the potential return on solar investments at the high school by constructing a detailed cost-benefit analysis, resulting in an anticipated 125% return on investment. The CAP then leveraged survey results and cost-benefit findings to get community leaders to commit to solar investments. Next steps include a city-sponsored energy assessment audit, applying for a $10,000 city energy efficiency grant, and installing solar panels at Bloomington North High School.
Amy Choi: Sustainable Science Project
This CAP is designed to raise awareness and offer solutions for waste management in science laboratories. A survey was first conducted to measure waste generated, energy consumption and knowledge about current recycling programs. The results indicated that a majority of labs want to be sustainable but do not know where to start, which will drive the creation of a guide for sustainable lab practices.
Ilay Ghavidel: Socio-Green Students Association
Socio-Green Students Association is a club created by youth for youth in Iran. The CAP’s three areas of focus have included: fashion swaps to keep clothing in circulation and out of landfills, Zero Waste education to promote recycling and composting, and water conservation by creating a system of connected pipes to gather the water produced by the school’s 26 air conditioning units in a reservoir and then use recycled water for gardens.
George Warfel: Solar Panels for Lancaster Day School
To reduce the use of fossil fuels, this CAP plans to install solar panels. After exploring options, a letter of intent was signed with Solar Walk, a regional initiative. The school would not have to pay for installation or maintenance, while receiving a reduced/fixed rate on electricity bills for 25 years. At that mark, the school will have the ability to buy the system at nearly zero cost and receive all generated power. Additional projects have included doubling the surface area of the community garden, expanding the school’s composting capabilities, and educational activities during Earth Week for all students.