Founded by author T. A. Barron, the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes annually honors 25 outstanding young leaders (in the US and Canada) ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference to people or the environment. Fifteen brilliant kids top winners each receive $10,000 to support their service work or higher education. The annual deadline for applications is April 15th and winners are announced in September, so get your little environmentalist genius on the their game for next years application!
Meet the most recent (2021) Barron Prize recipients whose projects are related to the environment, and share this list with your favorite kiddo to inspire them. As I said to my 9 year old “this is proof anyone can make a difference – no matter what age they are!”
- Alexandra Collins age 17 of Illinois co-founded Students Against Ethylene Oxide (SAEtO), a nonprofit that engages youth in fighting to ban the carcinogenic gas EtO near schools and residential areas. Her student group helped prompt the closure of Sterigenics, a local medical instrument sterilization company that for 30 years had spewed high levels of EtO into her community’s air. Alexandra first learned of the emissions in 2018 – and discovered the surrounding towns suffered from a cancer rate nine times the national average. She also discovered that few of her peers and neighbors knew about the documented connection between EtO and cancer. She embarked on a campaign to change that.
- Duncan Jurman age 18 of Florida founded Bring Butterflies Back to protect and repopulate South Florida butterflies through education, conservation, and research. He has collaborated with community partners to teach more than 3,500 students and individuals and has impacted over 10,000 butterflies. To foster environmental stewardship and attract butterflies, he converted a barren field on his school’s K-12 campus into an extensive outdoor classroom that includes a garden and vivarium. He carefully selected plants to serve as butterfly hosts and nectar sources, engineered watering systems, and spent weekends with volunteers constructing flower beds. His outdoor classroom is embedded in the school’s curriculum and has provided countless educational opportunities. It has also attracted more than 30 butterfly species, including two imperiled ones. The space is certified by Monarch Watch and the National Wildlife Federation and has won county gardening awards.
- Miles Fetherston-Resch age 9 of Florida founded Kids Saving Oceans to fundraise for ocean, beach, and marine conservation and to educate kids about saving our oceans, one choice at a time. He has raised more than $18,000 by selling t-shirts, hats, and stickers made from recycled or sustainable materials. He donates all proceeds to organizations that help oceans, including Surfrider, Mote Marine Lab, and Black Girls Dive. He hopes to donate one million dollars by the time he turns 18. Miles has organized beach clean-ups to remove litter and invasive species and sets up his Kids Saving Oceans booth at community events. He has hosted Earth Week events at his school, challenging students to see how little trash they can generate and gifting them metal straws. He has also inspired his school to ban single-use plastics and has successfully lobbied his City Council to ban plastic straws.
- Shreyas Kar age 16 of Kentucky founded Community AI (Artificial Intelligence) to support students in building AI-driven projects that help communities and the environment, unleashing the power of AI for good. His nonprofit team is designing projects to conserve water, reduce school violence, combat human trafficking, diagnose Parkinson’s Disease, and track wildfires, among other initiatives.
- Sonja Michaluk age 17 of New Jersey works passionately to protect wetlands and drinking water sources using a novel bioassessment method she created. For more than a decade, she has collected scientific data and shared it with policy makers to help conserve ecologically sensitive wetlands, critical habitat for threatened species, wildlife corridors, and old growth forests. Through her Conservation Communities Initiative, she has protected more than 50 acres of wetlands in densely populated Central New Jersey – and is working to preserve 250 more. Her years spent streamside have also led to the identification of a threatened amphibian species and protection of its habitat.
- Chloe Mei Espinosa age 15 of California created Skip the Plastic Straw to raise awareness of the harmful effects of single-use plastic straws and to discourage their use. She has convinced five Orange County, California school districts – a total of 245 schools – to eliminate plastic straws in their cafeterias. The move keeps more than 15 million straws out of landfills and oceans.
- Ella Galaski-Rossen and Cash Daniels age 11 of Ontario Canada and Tennessee created The Cleanup Kids to educate children about the environment and inspire them to help protect it. They are especially passionate about reducing plastic pollution in oceans and challenged children around the world to join them in picking up one million pieces of trash by the end of 2021.
- Evan Nied age 17 of Virginia founded Planting Shade, a nonprofit that works to increase the planting and growth of trees worldwide. He has organized students in planting 7,000 trees across Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, California, and Costa Rica. Alarmed by the impacts of Hurricane Florence on his hometown of Virginia Beach, he founded Planting Shade in 2018 to help alleviate flooding.
- Sarah Goody age 16 of California founded Climate NOW, a youth-led organization that empowers young people to use their voices in speaking up for climate justice. Her group has educated more than 10,000 youth around the world and has given presentations at nearly 80 K-12 schools. Climate NOW’s team of 35 young volunteers teaches climate education basics, including ten simple actions students can take to help the planet.