At a time when school has become a sheltered, at home activity, KTB would like to remind you of all the fabulous youth and educators out there that spent last year doing great things in their community. We received many applications for our KTB Youth and Educator Awards and we applaud all nominees. Without further ado, here are the winners!
Youth Award: Ximena Cornado
Ximena Cornado, a senior at Garland High School, is truly an extraordinary advocate for the environment. At only 18 years old she has already made a huge impact at her school and in the Garland community as a whole. She created and leads the Environmental Conservation Club and performed an audit at her school that helped change the way the entire Garland ISD school system recycles. She took them from paper and cardboard only to a full, single stream system. She has also helped create recycling curriculum for K-12 students, serves on the Garland HS Student Council, Community Service Committee and Energy and Environmental Committee.
Ximena’s achievements go well beyond her school. She is also part of the Garland Youth Council, served as a high school intern for Garland Environmental Waste Services and was the recipient of the North Texas Corporate Recycling Association “Recycler of the Year.” With all of this amazing work she has still found time to be an excellent student. Ximena is in the IB program at her school and spent last summer at Harvard University where she received A’s in Intro to Environmental Problems and Solutions & Environmental Governance, Policy and Social Justice. Ximena will graduate soon and attend New York University in the Fall. We wish her the best of luck with her very bright future!
Youth Organization Award: Lake Jackson Youth Advisory Council
For 24 years, the Lake Jackson Youth Advisory Council has served as an important part of the City structure. Composed of 48 public, private and homeschool students from 7-12th grade, this group impacts and enhances the community through a broad range of programs and projects. With a small budget and a great deal of enthusiasm, the students work on projects related to recycling, waste reduction, the environment and other issues within their community.
YAC members participate in cleanups and educational events throughout the year with partners like Keep Lake Jackson Beautiful, Keep Brazoria County Beautiful, Keep Texas Beautiful, Keep America Beautiful and the Texas Municipal League. In 2019, the students logged close to 3,000 volunteer hours as well as serving as campus leaders for their individual school recycling and beautification programs.
Their accomplishments for 2020 have been altered by COVID-19, but staff feels the students will come back better than ever. Terri Cardwell believes, “YAC is what brings together our community, schools and citizens to form a volunteer partnership that reflects the environmental values of this City of Enchantment.” Congratulations to all graduating YAC members and we hope the group will be able to gather soon to continue making a big impact in Lake Jackson!
Educator Award: Latina (Tina) Jezek
Wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, artist and master gardener; all of these have been fondly used to describe Tina Jezek. Tina teaches and inspires students at Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Denton and has taught everything from sewing to gardening and environmental science. She shares her background in farming and love of nature with students and faculty alike.
Tina started the school recycling program, participates in the Denton Sustainable Schools Program and worked with Keep Denton Beautiful to create a school garden and compost pile that regularly donates several hundred pounds of food to the local soup kitchen. She has expanded the garden to include an outdoor learning classroom, greenhouse, tower garden and eighth grade memorial.
Tina inspires the teachers and students alike, who all work together to maintain the garden, and has even created a “buddy” program where older students teach the younger ones what they have learned. She may not teach a traditional course like math or history, but Tina feels, “the students are learning lifelong skills that are critical to their future.” We applaud Tina for sharing her green thumb to teach and inspire those around her to become environmental stewards of the future!
Educational Institution Award: Elise Walker Outdoor Learning Center
The Elise Walker Outdoor Learning Center, a 25 acre outdoor classroom, features an inside instruction space, outdoor learning stations and an extensive trail system. Named after a long time educator for Irving ISD, this space came together through a partnership with the school system, the City of Irving and North Lake College. Located on the North Lake campus, college volunteers help keep the facility clean through the Keep Irving Beautiful Adopt A Spot program.
The Center hosts an average of 60 students per day and serves approximately 7,500 local students per year. Staff caters curriculum to each grade level and offers a variety of activities for all ages. Seniors are also welcome to participate in bird watching, photography hikes and other featured activities. They even host events for TPWD, Project Wild and the North Texas Master Naturalist Program. “The Learning Center is an Irving treasure and inspires current and future generations to learn more about and take care of Texas.”
For more KTB Award winners visit us at www.ktb.org/ktbawards. Interested in involving youth in your community leadership? Check out our upcoming webinar on June 18, Youth Advisory Councils: Involving Youth in Your Affiliate Leadership.
Blog written by Karen Maldonado, Program Coordinator