Winners of 2013 Wangari Maathai Environmental Award Announced

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The Rockefeller Foundation / March 20, 2014 / Press Releases

NEW YORK, March 20, 2014 — The Municipal Art Society and The Rockefeller Foundation today announced the winners of the 2013 Wangari Maathai Award for Civic Participation in Sustainability – Alexandra Gumas, a student from Bard High School Early College, and Jaylen Gregory, a student from NYC iSchool.

The winners were selected based on their academic and extracurricular commitment to environmental stewardship within the urban context, as demonstrated through their development and execution of sustainability-themed projects. They will each receive a $10,000 cash award, intended to be used for their first year of college.

The Wangari Maathai Award is an annual award that honors two New York City public high school seniors. It was inaugurated last year by The Rockefeller Foundation, the Bette Midler Family Trust and NYC Parks in honor of Dr. Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Maathai was a visionary environmentalist and founder of the Green Belt Movement — a tree-planting campaign to promote sustainable development, woman's empowerment, and democracy in Kenya.

The selection jury consisted of representatives from The Rockefeller Foundation, the New York Restoration Project, The Midler Family Trust, the NYC Department of Education’s Sustainability Initiative, and MillionTreesNYC. 

“Dr. Wangari Maathai’s desire to improve the lives of the world’s poor and vulnerable communities through environmental stewardship is truly an inspiration, and we are honored to celebrate her life and work with this award,” said Dr. Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “We applaud this year’s winners for their strong commitment to the environment and their communities.”

For the past few years, Alexandra Gumas has run a bottle cap collection contest at Bard High School Early College with her school’s environmental club. The campaign started before bottle caps were recyclable in New York State, but has continued both to show support for an environmentally-conscious company that recycles the caps to construct new bottles, and to encourage eco-friendly habits among Bard High School students. Ms. Gumas spearheaded the effort on behalf of her school, helping to keep students informed about the competition and ensuring the execution of the bi-annual campaign. She is currently assisting with a program to reform recycling school-wide, a process aided by the awareness raised by the bottle cap collection drive. Ms. Gumas is interested in pursuing a career in sustainable energy, and plans to major in environmental studies.

Jaylen Gregory explored the biodiversity of his school’s grounds in Lower Manhattan with his fellow classmates at NYC iSchool and determined that the environment was home to a very small variety of species, making it prone to control by a few invasive species. Mr. Gregory created an action plan to increase the biodiversity of the school’s ecosystem, and led a team of younger students in its implementation. His team constructed birdhouses and garden beds to create an environment suitable for an array of native birds and plants, and cleaned tree pits — loosening soil, adding fertilizer, and removing trash — to encourage tree growth. Currently, Mr. Gregory is also participating in an ongoing project that seeks to establish a green roof at his school, serving as the plant specialist in the process. Mr. Gregory plans to pursue a degree in environmental science, and hopes to one day affect environmental change on a global level.

The awards will be handed out at the Municipal Art Society's Annual Meeting, at the AXA Equitable Center on March 25, 2014. For more information about the event please visit: www.mas.org/annualmeeting.

The Wangari Maathai Award for Civic Participation and Sustainability is administered by the Municipal Art Society of New York. More information is available at: http://www.milliontreesnyc.org/html/educate/maathai_scholarship.shtml#.

The Rockefeller Foundation
For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Today, The Rockefeller Foundation pursues this mission through dual goals: advancing inclusive economies that expand opportunities for more broadly shared prosperity, and building resilience by helping people, communities and institutions prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from acute shocks and chronic stresses. To achieve these goals, The Rockefeller Foundation works at the intersection of four focus areas — advance health, revalue ecosystems, secure livelihoods, and transform cities — to address the root causes of emerging challenges and create systemic change. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot — or will not. To learn more, please visit www.rockefellerfoundation.org.

Municipal Art Society
The Municipal Art Society of New York has led New York City’s livability movement since 1893. MAS’s mission is to advocate for public policies, private sector practices, individual agency and community engagement for a resilient built environment that encourages our city’s economic vitality, cultural vibrancy, environmental sustainability and social diversity. For more information visit MAS.org.

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