Youth and Educator Awards
Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 Youth and Educator Awards! The KTB Youth and Educator Awards honor extraordinary students, educators and volunteers working to improve and beautify their communities. Awards are given in a number of categories, to elementary through college-level youth as well as educators and youth organizers.
Ruthe Jackon Youth Leadership Awards
The Ruthe Jackson Youth Leadership Awards recognize the efforts and leadership of young people and youth-oriented organizations who beautify their community and create cleaner, greener campuses, parks and neighborhoods.
Addison Owings, Angleton | Youth Individual – Elementary School
Northside Elementary 4th grader Addison Owings not only started a new school club called Team Green to promote recycling, she led the effort to create a sunshade out of leftover water bottles. The project “Wildcats Recycling Makes You Cool” garnered a national grant of $500 to help complete the project. The structure, made from re-purposed water bottles from the cafeteria filled with colored water suspended from a wooden and string frame, offers shade to children while they are at recess. The majority of work done to start both Team Green and the sunshade project was done by Addison herself – not adults.
By targeting peers who have not been active in recycling and encouraging them to do so, Addison is engaging her peers (as well as the adults) to take responsibility for improving the campus and the environment in general. She has shown that recycling is everyone’s responsibility, and that reusing materials can be functional and beautiful.
Emma Rose Gill, Nolanville | Youth Individual – Middle School
Emma Rose has led and supported multiple activities that involved youth, public awareness and beautification for the City of Nolanville. Gifted in photography and video, she has helped document events, and allowed use of her photos to promote activity on social media. She also submitted and won first place the Take Care of Texas Video Contest for 7th Grade. The video was an educational documentation of techniques to protect the environment. Additionally, she has raised awareness through stocking a lending library with TCEQ educational material and seed sticks, and by creating a holiday parade float with a Recycle/Reuse theme.
Emma Rose also attended a City Council meeting and provided a vision board for how the youth could be provided more opportunities for volunteering. As a result, the City started the first Youth Advisory Council. Recruitment is now underway and she has volunteered to take the lead as the Chair.
Prashanth Pai, Sugar Land | Youth Individual – High School
Prashanth Pai is both a leader and innovator. Inspired by three things—student council, computer science and the Keep Sugarland Beautiful Youth Advisory Board, of which he is a second-term member, he came up with the idea of an original app called Keep Kempner Clean. Available on the AppStore and GooglePlay, with this app students from Kempner High School can reserve a section of Voss Road and Kempner to pick up litter for a month and beautify. Additionally, they can learn about environmental awareness, look at a virtual calendar for spot assignments, and take pictures to post. With nine clubs committed to the app, Prashanth has helped minimize litter on my campus, created volunteer events for other clubs, and allowed Voss Road clean-up to be more successful for the present and future.
Northside Elementary Green Team, Angleton | Youth Program – Elementary School
In Fall 2016, third grade student Addison Owings started the Green Team at Northside Elementary because she thought students could help the community by recycling and other environmental projects. It continues to operate with minimal adult guidance other than supervision. The group is successful in recruiting other students to its membership, encouraging students to recycle their food packaging in the cafeteria, and working on projects on its campus. Some of the projects the Green Team has done include a sunshade project and a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) playground.
Because of their efforts, recycling has increased at Northside Elementary. More students are educated about reusing materials as well. Students are exposed to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) curricula while also playing outside on recycled materials. Shade from reused materials is offered to students at recess. In short, the Green Team students have served as environmental role models for their campus and their community
Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, Allen High School | Youth Program – High School
The Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (MCJROTC) was established at the Allen High School in 2013. They have partnered with the City of Allen, Keep Allen Beautiful, and the Allen Garden Club to assist with events such as National Planting Day, Allen Recycles Day, and the Great American Cleanup. This school year 67 cadets have volunteered over 260 hours towards beautification, recycling, and waste diversion.
However, what is most commendable is the effectiveness of their youth leadership, their due diligence to determine how to best serve each mission, their ability to improvise to help an event be successful, and their dedication to improving the community in which they live and serve. MCJROTC volunteers set the tone of other volunteers, lead by example, and take initiative to assist in other areas. After volunteering for these type of events, the cadets have a new appreciation for their community environment and will be effective leaders in environmental stewardship wherever they go.
The BIG Event, Nacogdoches | Youth Program – College
The BIG Event at Stephen F. Austin State University is designed as "one big day of thanks." This program connects students at SFA with businesses, non-profit organizations, and homeowners in Nacogdoches County. Recipients submit job request forms, and SFA students fulfill these requests in a four-hour period. The 2017 event involved nearly 2,000 SFA students, serving at more than 150 service sites within the county.
The BIG Event takes more than nine months to plan each year, and this is led by students who serve on The BIG Event Crew. During that time, the Crew to build relationships in the community, publicize the service request period, train the students, seek sponsorships, work through risk management and logistics, purchase supplies, and recruit student volunteers. The Crew also often does its own service projects throughout the year as team builders, in a program they title “Adopt-A-Resident.”
Boy Scout Troop 13, Angleton | Youth Program – Scout Troop
Boy Scout Troop 13 has been involved with Keep Angleton Beautiful for many years. In 2016- 2017, the troop participated in many environmental pursuits, including maintaining the flower planters in downtown Angleton and participating in Keep Angleton Beautiful’s Citywide Spring Cleanup, which is a Don’t Mess with Texas Trash-off and Great American Cleanup event.
The troop is lead by their elected Senior Patrol Leader (SPL), who works with his scoutmaster to identify potential projects or activities that the troop can participate in. The SPL in the last year has been very active in encouraging his peers to show up and be involved in the events. He also attended and gave feedback to the Keep Angleton Beautiful group at one of its monthly meetings. The boys in Troop 13 do an excellent job as role models to their peers and to the rest of the community about how one should volunteer and be good stewards of the environment around them.
Brewster County Twin Peaks 4-H Club, Alpine | Youth Program – Civic
The Brewster County Twin Peaks 4-H Club is a youth organization dedicated to the hands-on teaching of leadership skills, empowerment, stewardship, and dedication through adult mentorship and team building. The Twin Peaks 4-H Club has worked closely with Keep Alpine Beautiful on many community service projects including a campaign to reduce the number of plastic bags used at local stores, planting trees, picking up litter, conservation, and recycling. KAB can rely upon the 4-H Club members’ dedication and reliability, often working beyond the set hours for community events, and taking initiative to creatively extend campaigns such as the "Got Your Bags?" campaign. No matter what the event, Keep Alpine Beautiful can count on the youth from the 4-H club to show up to pick up trash, recycle TVs, and challenge others to do the same.
Sadie Ray Graff Educators and Educational Institution Awards
The Sadie Ray Graff Awards recognize the efforts of educators and educational institutions who encourage youth involvement and promote the Keep Texas Beautiful mission through environmental education.
Teresa Tunnel, Garland | Educator – Elementary
Terri (Teresa) Tunnell has taught 5th grade science and math at Abbett Elementary School since 2003. In 2011 she planned the school garden so that students could learn more about their food and its sources. She works with all the students in the garden, where she applies what they have learned in class as well as learn responsibility, about healthy living, understanding the environment and taking care of it. She says, “We want to raise strong healthy children who will continue to give to our community and take care of others.”
Tamara Butler, Grand Prairie | Educator – Middle School
As a 7th grade science teacher at Young Women’s Leadership Academy at Arnold, Mrs. Butler looks for new ways to reach her students. As part of the Science Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), students must observe, record, and describe the role of ecological succession in ecosystems. In addition, students must plan and implement a descriptive investigation of the role of ecological succession in the schoolyard. The four-year Prairie Restoration Project that Mrs. Butler has begun is a way to combine the teaching of ecological issues with the natural beauty of our native grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs. Part of that project includes a prescribed burn completed on the grounds of the school. Once a restored prairie has been established on the existing fields, Mrs. Butler plans to burn one section every four years to continue teaching succession and demonstrating how fields’ succession changes over the four years of growth. Our students will see the natural progression of the vegetation and the welcoming of our native insects, birds and animals and be involved with the natural world around them.
Aileen Hernandez, Grand Prairie | Educator – High School
A school garden can be a powerful environmental education tool and for many years staff members at YWLA tried to create and cultivate a school garden. It was not until Mrs. Hernandez joined the high school science staff that YWLA succeeded. Mrs. Hernandez, in addition to teaching a full class load, is responsible for the development and maintenance of the school’s garden. She is a resource for other campus teachers as they plan and implement cross-curricular lessons in the outdoor classroom and she manages all the planting, tending and maintenance of the garden. Through the school garden and outdoor learning classroom, Mrs. Hernandez has increased students understanding of the relationship between animals, plants, and the environment. By working with the students in the garden, Mrs. Hernandez is helping them understand the world around them and their effects on that world.
Brenda Townsend, Grand Prairie | Educator – District
Brenda Townsend is celebrating her 26th year as an educator. Starting as a classroom teacher, she currently is the Program Coordinator at the Natural Science Education Center (NSEC) at Kirby Creek Park. In partnership with the City of Grand Prairie and the GPISD, NSEC provides a location for students in grades pre-K through 5th to explore the great outdoors. Kirby Creek Park includes an urban park, nature trails, a compost demonstration garden, wildlife habitat areas, and a field classroom.
As the sole GPISD staff member there Brenda designs and coordinates lessons for all 14,500 pre K – 5 students. She is also the school district liaison for the multi-award winning Green and Clean Program and the GPISD Month of Service, which works with Keep Grand Prairie Beautiful to host districtwide ‘Think Tanks’ for topic-specific training regarding school gardens, composting, insects, litter, and recycling techniques
Crockett EES Outdoor Learning Area, Grand Prairie | Elementary School
Crockett Early Education School (EES) is a pre-K campus with over 500 students. With our outdoor learning area our students see the importance of taking care of our community by exploring what the outdoors consist of and what does and does not belong in nature. Our students explore through observation tables, analyze in sorting tables, and interact alongside nature with our climbing and crawling equipment, and express themselves on art panels. Crockete EES is working together with other community entities such as Boy Scouts, Dad’s Club, and other volunteers in partnership with the development of the outdoor learning area --to better educate students, their parents and the community in the importance of getting the next generation involved in the outdoors.
Jackson Middle School Outdoor Learning Center, Grand Prairie | Middle School
From the inception of the Jackson Middle School Outdoor Learning Center, we wanted to take the skills in gardening and environmental awareness that the students developed from their time in the elementary environmental programs and transfer those into practices that could be used to promote the use of native species and water conservation in landscaping. The first charge for the students was to convert an unused and unappealing area in the center of campus into a series of gardens that could serve as hands-on work areas to be used for our agriculture and landscape design students. In doing so, they not only created visually appealing gardens, but they also learned techniques in landscape design and native species propagation that would promote water conservation and demonstrate the benefits of drought tolerant plants. By having the students be active participants in the design and creation of native perennial gardens, xeriscaping, and wildflower habitats, they not only are gaining the knowledge needed to become ambassadors for the environment, but they are also growing native plants that eventually can be distributed throughout the community and used in neighborhood landscaping.
Lake Jackson Youth Advisory Commission | Off Campus Organization
Lake Jackson Youth Advisory Commission (YAC) is a city-sponsored youth board consisting of 7th-12th grade students from three local public, private & home schools. For 20 years, YAC has served as a liaison between the youth of Lake Jackson and City Council, and as the guiding spirit of environmental youth leadership in Lake Jackson.
Their major focus this year was “Random Acts of Kindness” which promoted “volunteerism” as way of life. In partnership with local business & industry, Keep Lake Jackson Beautiful (KLBJ), Keep Texas Beautiful and community organizations, YAC has planned and implemented programs that educate their peers on litter prevention, beautification and recycling. They have spent more than 1,875 hours doing community service work including America’s Recycle “RECYLING ROCKS” Fall Cleanup, Arbor Day (100 trees given away) activities at the City Easter Egg Hunt, paper shredding event at the “Don’t Mess with Texas” Trash-off Spring Cleanup, food drives and “Easter Basket” (200) given away at the Food Pantry. AC is what brings together our community and schools to form a volunteer partnership that reflects the environmental values in the “City of Enchantment” Lake Jackson.
San Saba Independent School District | District
Under the ingenious direction of San Saba ISD Superintendent Leigh Ann Glaze, SSISD achieved an unbelievable level of environmental and stewardship education in 2016 by creating a unique way to promote civic pride through volunteerism. The New “Armadillos Get Involved - We Rise by Lifting Others” project combined a community workday with out-of-classroom instruction for a full day of civic and environmental stewardship. This included the ENTIRE San Saba ISD population (125 staff members and 750 Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade students) in partnership with city employees and civic group members to conduct maintenance and beautification projects across the City of San Saba and at all three SSISD campuses.
Almost one-third of San Saba’s population showed up on Columbus Day morning to work; within a week of the Workday completion, residents wanted SSISD to “do it again.” The San Saba ISD School Board heard the cry and has already approved the Columbus Day Community Workday for the 2017-2018 school year.
To view the entire list of winners, please click here.