White House Hosts Green Schools and National Green Schools Society Students for Climate Education and Literacy Student Round Table
Pictured L to R: Robin Organ, Executive Director and Founder of Green Schools; Back Row: Charles Orgbon III, Avalon Theisen, Jillian Rizzitano, Samuel Koufman, Green Schools Director of Schools and Students, Maureen Aylward; Front Row: Lynnea Shuck, Jamison Wrinn and Haley Organ
On Monday, February 9th, 2015 at 3:15 PM, the White House hosted eight students from Green Schools, National Green Schools Society, and affiliated organizations for a student round table discussion on Climate Education and Literacy. The student round table coincided with the Champions of Change event that is celebrating eight Americans who are doing extraordinary work to enhance climate education and literacy in classrooms and communities across the country.
The eight students invited to attend are student leaders, environmental stewards, and change agents in their respective schools. This group of students represent middle school, high school and undergraduate college students. These award-winning students are leading the charge for youth-driven change bringing the youth voice to the issues of climate change, climate education and awareness, environmental protection, transition to renewable energy, and reduction of carbon pollution.
Meet the students
Meet Jillian Rizzitano
Jillian Rizzitano is co-president of Green Schools and National Green Schools and co-chair of the Massachusetts Green Student Leadership Council. She is a senior at Algonquin Regional High School in southeastern MA. Jillian was inspired by the environmental movement in 4th grade and joined Green Schools in 7th grade. She heads up projects such as single stream recycling, polystyrene recycling, expansion of the school’s organic garden, use of the greenhouse, and coordinates with students from around the nation on environmental projects. She loves speaking about ecology-especially sustainable agriculture – and wants to pursue a career in environmental science and policy.
National Green Difference Award Winner
Presidential Environmental Youth Award certificates
President’s Volunteer Service Award Gold
Massachusetts House of Representatives citations
Like A Drop of Water Essay Contest winner
Nature’s Voices story contest Finalist
Meet Samuel Koufman
Sam Koufman is a senior at Manchester Essex Regional High School in Manchester, MA. He is co-president of Green Schools and National Green Schools Society, and co-chair of the Massachusetts Green Student Leadership Council. As a Green Scholar in his school, Sam works towards implementing composting and recycling into businesses and restaurants in his local community. He works with elementary and middle school Green Teams to promote green living habits at school and at home. Sam currently serves as the president of his school’s Green Team and on the Curbside Compost Committee in his community. He has received the EPA’s Presidential Environmental Youth Award certificate and several Green Student Ambassador awards from Green Schools. He was a student liaison for the Massachusetts Environmental Literacy Plan (ELP). Sam is dedicating his future to bettering the Earth, and developing new student practices and education curriculum that will inform students about climate change. He plans to pursue environmental law.
Green Schools Ambassador’s Award
Presidential Environmental Youth Award certificate
Samuel’s message to students and schools:
“As a student studying various environmental courses everyday, I am learning real world skills that will aid me in my future endeavors. Student to student- continue to pursue different avenues of interest. As climate science is becoming more available to the public, individuals are learning about the interconnectedness of the environment and how it allows students and professionals to combine typical professions to environmentalism. Because I followed my interests in 7th grade, I am going to be applying the knowledge I acquired with a profession such as a lawyer or a policy maker.”
Meet Haley Organ
Haley is one of Green Schools Junior Officers of National Green Schools Society. Haley was Green Schools very 1st Junior Ambassador and you can’t slow this girl down when it comes to Climate & Environmental Action! Since the age of 4, Haley has been writing environmental songs, creating environmental art, performing inspiring songs and self-written poems at statewide events, speaking out, leading discussions, planting seeds, trees and so much more. Haley was invited to speak and network [she designed her own Business Cards] at events organized by US Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, Former MA Governor Deval Patrick, State Representative Jay Barrows, Senator Brian Joyce, and the Commonwealth of MA. She has participated on many Youth Panels focused around environmental service and the role of the student, including high profile events at the EPA Region 1 and the MA State House. Haley speak out on climate and environmental issues often as is not shy about her beliefs and possible solutions.
Awards & Recognitions:
- Presidential Environmental Youth Certificates 3 years
- National Green Difference Award Winner
- State of MA Recognition Honored Haley for her environmental service 5 years
- Student of the Month in her School for demonstrating Leadership and Character January 2015
Featured in Green Schools cultivates Massachusetts’ “brain power”, a video in Partnership with Governor Patrick
Featured in Green Schools Student Ambassadors Lead the Way!
Meet Jamison Wrinn
Jamison Wrinn is currently a Junior Officer for Green Schools. In 2014, Jamison was recognized by Green Schools for his environmental art project, The Earth Loom. He also received an EPA Presidential Environmental Youth Award certificate for his environmental project and environmental stewardship. In September 2014, Jamison marched in the People’s Climate March, calling for climate justice and the end to the fossil fuel era. Jamison’s environmental advocacy work continues to evolve. This year he has jump started his school’s Environmental Club and will work with two fellow middle school students on an idling awareness campaign. This team project will include showing a movie to middle and high schools students, reading and teaching elementary school students, and helping the entire school community of teachers, administrators, and parents understand the dangers of idling.
- Green Schools Student Ambassador Award 2014
- EPA Presidential Environmental Youth Award certificate 2014
Jamison’s message to students and schools:
“I believe that one of the most important things that we need to do as students is to really understand the facts of fossil fuel use and why and how fossil fuels are warming the planet. We need to stop using them and instead move to renewable energy. Wind and solar are our best options right now, and it’s up to students to be leaders in making this transition. We need to be strong and loud and make sure that adults listen to us because we want a healthy planet to live on when we are older – and for all people and plants and animals to thrive.”
After noticing his school’s littering problem in 2008 as a 12-year-old, Charles Orgbon III began leading school-based community beautification projects. He quickly realized that the environment movement was not adequately supporting young environmental changemakers; therefore, he created Greening Forward. Today, the youth-driven, youth-imagined organization has grown into the largest movement of its kind. In all, Greening Forward has distributed over $60,000 in funding to youth environmental projects that have also planted over 300 trees, built over 80 compost bins, installed over 200 rain barrels, monitored 11 streams, recycled 120 tons of waste, planned three International Young Environmentalists Youth Summits, and advocated for a number of other environmental issues. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has dedicated a piece of the Power of Children permanent exhibit to Charles’s efforts in order to inspire more young people to make a positive difference in the world, Charles is profiled in numerous books on social entrepreneurship, and is currently one of 48 “People of Character” featured in school agenda books. Charles is a first-year student studying Environmental Economics and Management at the University of Georgia.
-Captain Planet Foundation Young Superhero for the Earth Award
-Gloria Barron Prize for Young Changemakers
-Globechanger Award (Jefferson Awards)
-PARADE All-America High School Service Team Award Recipient
-Points of Light Tribute Awardee
-McDonald’s 365 Black Awardee
Charles’ message to students and schools:
“In the years to come, today’s youth will be here to witness the dramatic effects of climate change on our natural world, yet our system of government creates barriers for meaningful youth participation. This is a democracy issue, because to make a democracy work, we must find every reason to be inclusive. This is a bottom-line issue, because young people are uniquely qualified to impact the lives of their futures.”
Meet Avalon Theisen
Avalon Theisen was 9 years old in 2010 when she realized she needed to use her connection with the natural word to help make the world a better place for frogs and the environment. She also wanted to help people by empowering them to reconnect with nature. She has grown her efforts into a non-profit organization called Conserve It Forward, which offers several environmental programs and activities, with a goal of raising awareness and inspiring action that will benefit both the natural world and people. Avalon also connects with her audience through positive media, including journalism, hosting Nature Tracks with Avalon on The Autism Channel, and as the voice of Abbey Toad on Pacha’s Pajamas musical CD, We Are ALL Connected. In late 2014, Avalon released “Avalon’s Art Cards,” framable art you can give as cards, each which includes environmental information. She is also exploring how to help others learn more about the effects our food choices have on the environment.
2014 Humane Student of the Year by Animalearn
2014 Summer of Service Award by Youth Service America
2014 Florida Achievement Award
2013 & 2014Peace First Prize Finalist
2014 WEDU PBS Be More Awards Rising Star Award
2013 SBN International Youth Award
2013 Greening Forward Earth Savers Club Award
2012 Temple Grandin Award for an individual with autism
Radio Disney Heroes for Change Award
Roosevelt-Ashe Conservation Award for Outstanding Youth in Conservation for 2012
The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes
President’s Volunteer Service Award, Gold Level
International Young Eco-Hero Award by Action for Nature
FrogLog Jr. (Avalon was Guest Editor to help create a youth version of the popular amphibian conservation publication FrogLog)
Avalon’s message to students and schools:
“My goal is that everyone should feel interconnected with other living things and the environment, because then they want to help and not destroy. If we all do small acts, then together, we will make big changes.”
Meet Colter Adams
Colter ,13, started as an environmentalist at an early age. He founded the first environmental club at his middle school. Colter realized that the only way to get his peers fired up about the environment was to get them together and inspire them to protect the environment. Colter has received the Craig Tufts scholarship for the Family Nature Summit, completed six years of his school’s district-wide Operation Earth Watch program, and has written several articles about the environment. He plans to attend the Green Schools National Network Conference Student Summit this year as well as other student focused gatherings such as ecoAmerica’s Path to Positive MomentUs Leadership Summit.
Third Place for Nature’s Voice Story Contest