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Students Receive Funding for Environmental Action Projects at first Youth Environmental Action Summit

Students learned from each other and community partners and pitched their own ideas for improving the environment during the April 5 Youth Environmental Action Summit (YEAS) held at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.

This inaugural summit, directed by young professionals Aurelio Giannitti of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and Elise Trelegan from the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office, along with a Steering Committee, brought together more than 200 students, teachers, and community leaders from Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset counties together to share ideas and inspiration about ways young people can make positive environmental change on the Eastern Shore. Many students from Wicomico County Public Schools participated by helping organize the summit, attending, presenting, and leading discussions.

Thanks to awards and $12,667 in funding given out for school environmental action projects, the Youth Environmental Action Summit will continue to engage students and support student projects moving forward. Awards are listed below.


Special awards coming directly from the City of Salisbury: Mayor Jake Day is a huge proponent for youth engagement and for addressing local environmental issues. These projects all address either stormwater issues or issues related to improving the health of the Wicomico River.


Parkside High School’s Pocket Garden

Kristina, Gabby

Funded at $288 to create a series of gardens to address stormwater issues on school grounds and athletic fields at Parkside.


James M. Bennett High School’s Rain Barrels Project

Grace, Da

Funded at $250 to install painted rain barrels in the garden space on the school grounds.


James M. Bennett High School’s Parking Lot Clean Up

Cassidy, Makenzie

Funded at $40 to organize a school-wide clean up effort, particularly in the parking lots and areas around storm drains on campus.


Salisbury Middle School’s Water Pollution Project


Funded at $200 to draw attention to keeping storm drains clean in and around the Salisbury Middle campus.


Salisbury Middle School’s Stormwater Runoff Project

Larry, Kimora, J’Veona

Funded at $200 to lead a community clean up around City Park to address stormwater runoff issues.


Elementary Awards from Orsted and NAAEE (recipients from Wicomico Schools):


Grand Prize winner: Pinehurst Elementary’s Panther Community Garden

Students from Ms. Nerud’s class: Anna, Heaven, Elizabeth, Josie, Jack, Brady

Funded at $1,200 to support a community garden and composting station which will be used and maintained by students, teachers, and staff at Pinehurst Elementary. These youth-led efforts also support their quest to become a MAEOE Green School.


Pinehurst Elementary’s Pollinator Project

Students from Ms. Spicer’s class - Rylynn, Jailynn, Julissa

Funded at $129 to provide habitat for pollinators on their schoolyard by planting flowers that will attract certain insects like bees and butterflies.


Pinehurst Elementary’s Bird Habitat Project

Students from Ms. Spicer’s class - Charlie, Elle, Hamza

Funded at $210 to provide habitat for migratory birds on their school yard. Students specifically connected this issue back to the multiple threats that birds face in urbanized areas.


Pinehurst Elementary’s Recycling Project

Students from Ms. Nerud’s class: Finn, Fabricio, Ayden

Funded at $90 to support a recycling effort in the elementary school.


Pinehurst Elementary’s Car Idling Project

Students from Ms. George’s class: Kayrie, Jermaine, Taylor

Funded at $370 to install signs to support their anti-idling campaign in the school drop off/pick up lane.


Pinehurst Elementary’s Air Pollution Project

Students from Ms. Kudzmas’s class: John, Senaiya, Prince, Asher

Funded at $300 to create a clean air campaign through a series of marketing materials including a billboard.


Pinehurst Elementary’s Bird Habitat Project

Students from Ms. Spicer’s class - Audrey, Aliya, Khalid

Funded at $180 to install bat boxes on school grounds to support the full trajectory of the pollinator effort.


East Salisbury Elementary’s Class on the Grass

Students from the STREAM program including Ariana, Za’Kais

Funded to support the creation of an outdoor classroom build by and for students.


East Salisbury Elementary’s Recycling Project

Students from Gooch’s class: Amiyah

Funded at $90 to support a recycling effort in the elementary school.


North Salisbury Elementary’s Edible Garden

Elijah, Diandra, Eder, Vernon

Funded at $400 to create a very unique garden on the school campus. Students in this group did a fantastic job of connecting gardenscapes and the local food movement to climate change. 


Prince Street Elementary’s Litter in the Schoolyard Campaign

Students from the STREAM program including Janki, Govans, Tre'Shawn

Funded at $300 to support a full no-littering campaign including new trash/recycle bins, hosting a series of clean up days, and building capacity within local clubs to support this effort.


Middle School Awards, presented by Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore and Salisbury University:


Salisbury Middle’s Menhaden Project

Clark, Austin, Marcus

Funded at $130 to support the rearing of a critical fish to the Chesapeake Bay region - the Atlantic menhaden. This was one of our best researched projects.


Salisbury Middle’s Plastic Pollution Project


A very ambitious proposal to combat world-plastic consumption. While we couldn’t spare $4 million we wanted to recognize this project as one that thinks BIG and addresses the root causes of plastic pollution.


Salisbury Middle’s Wetland Campaign

Marian, Nevaeh, Ceylan, Anandi

Funded at $150 to support the development a dynamic and non traditional approach to protecting our wetlands. This group will work with underserved communities and has already launched a social media presence to educate audiences about the importance of wetlands.


Salisbury Middle’s Invasive Species Project


Funded at $100 to support an educational campaign on the importance of recognizing and removing invasive species.


Wicomico Middle’s Courtyard Beautification Project

Aubree, Malena, Elena, Lily, Daleska

Funded at $270 to introduce more green spaces into Wi Middle’s campus which will increase habitat and provide spaces of tranquility for students during the hussel and bussel of school.


Mentor award, YEAS Youth Voice Award: This goes to a teacher whose passion for educating has been clear to us from the get-go, Chad Pavlekovich. Chad, aka “Dr. P,” epitomizes what we mean when we talk about supporting youth voice. The projects that came out of his class this year have been some of the more unconventional but clearly unique in the way that they address the concerns and interests of his students. His commitment to the ideas of his students is unmatched.


Award winners, high school projects:


Grand Prize: Parkside High School’s Rooftop Garden Initiative

Sarah, Anna

Funded at $1,000, this project will introduce Salisbury’s first rooftop garden in the downtown area in partnership with Roadie Joes. These students have worked incredibly hard to pull all of the pieces together to make this happen and are addressing the ‘urban heat island effect’ that will be exacerbated by climate change. This project is incredibly well researched and we have high hopes for this to set a precedent for more businesses downtown.


1 Year to Empowerment’s Refuse the Straw Campaign

Eshani, Dora, Krisha, Daisy, Kinza

Funded at $288 to work with local businesses to integrate sustainable practices including using alternatives to plastic straws. This group had one of the best videos and completed a needs assessment with local coffee shops.


James M. Bennett High School’s Styrofoam Trays in the Cafeteria Project

Chase, Cece, Colin, Caroline

Funded at $400 to work with school administration to replace the styrofoam trays used in the cafeteria with reusable plastic trays.


James M. Bennett High School’s Reusable Straws Project


Funded at $250 to work with a local business to minimize the number of single-use straws provided to customers using information from Surfrider’s Strawless Summer Campaign.


James M. Bennett High School’s Invasive Snakehead Project

Craig, Gourov

Funded at $25 to educate the public about how to deal with the invasive snakehead in local waterways.


James M. Bennett High School’s Clean Up/Zoo Footprint Project

Emma, Hayley

Funded at $90 to support an interactive campaign to increase the usage of trash barrels and recycle bins at the Salisbury Zoo.


James M. Bennett High School’s Recycling with Elementary Project

Londyn, Merland

Funded at $60 to support a recycling and educational effort where high school students teach elementary students about proper recycling practices.


James M. Bennett High School’s Pollution in the Wicomico River Project

Jack, Leighton

To educate the public and advocate for changes in the community to protect the wicomico river from discharge and pollution.


James M. Bennett High School’s Plastic and Paper Recycling

Patrick, Abby, Scott, Marvin, Mirenna

Funded at $300 to support a multi-faceted effort to increase recycling options at the high school including an incentive program. Students will also create educational signage about what can be recycled and how to limit single-use plastics in the first place.


James M. Bennett High School’s Assateague Beach Clean Up

Mason, Amelia

Funded at $400 to support a beach clean up effort in Assateague. Kudos to this team for having a fantastic video!


James M. Bennett High School’s Plastic Pollution Mural

Elizabeth, Clare

Funded at $70 to create an educational art piece using found objects to communicate the urgent issue of marine debris.


James M. Bennett High School’s Mindful Mondays

Anna, Tess

Funded at $30 to support students in working with their administrators to increase meat-less options in the cafeteria and thus lessen the carbon footprint of the lunchtime meal.


James M. Bennett High School’s Car Idling Campaign

Evan, Aaron

Funded at $250 to educate students and adults about reducing their emissions by not idling in the parking lots and pick up lanes.


James M. Bennett High School’s Butterfly Habitat


Funded at $30 to support the creation of a butterfly garden on school grounds


James M. Bennett High School’s Oyster Cages

Sang, Zach, Max

To improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay by installing oyster cages which, in addition to filtering the water, provide substrate for more oysters to grow and other ecosystem services. This project is supported by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.


James M. Bennett High School’s Deal Island Project

Kelsey, Sophia

Funded at $274 to create educational materials that will support a new interpretive panel that will be installed on Deal Island. This project is in partnership with Maryland DNR.


Outstanding mentor recognition: Hema Bhaskaran, James M. Bennett High. She has made it her mission to support this summit from the very beginning - from participation on the steering committee to supporting more than a dozen projects so that all grades at JMB could engage in environmental action.


Two James M. Bennett High students on the YEAS Steering Committee absolutely blew everyone away with their commitment to supporting the first year of the Youth Environmental Action Summit. Each of them was presented with a $1,000 scholarship to support them in their pursuit of higher education. These two young ladies brought very different perspectives and talents to the table, and both were equally essential in making the inaugural summit a success. Londyn Wiggins, is the social media specialist, serving on the YEAS Steering Committee. She was incredibly thoughtful and reflective, and brought in friends and spread the word about the summit. Merland Orneus, also on our Steering Committee and co-keynote for the summit, brought her bubbly personality and bright ideas to every meeting. Her outgoing nature makes her a natural leader. Both of these seniors were instrumental in the development of YEAS and will be difficult to replace next year – though they are welcome to help out as graduates.