Brower Youth Awards

Meet Our 2008 Winners

Earth Island News

photo of a sharply dressed young man speaking at a podium
2007 BYA winner Alexander Lin

Earth Island Institute established the Brower Youth Awards in 2000 to highlight the accomplishments of rising environmental leaders. The annual accolade goes to six young people who have demonstrated outstanding achievements in environmental and social justice advocacy. The winners are each given $3,000, brought to San Francisco for an awards ceremony, and provided opportunities for mentorship through Earth Island Institute’s New Leaders Initiative.

We are very pleased to announce the winners of the 2008 award. We hope you can join us for the ceremony Tuesday, October 21, at San Francisco’s Herbst Theater. To reserve your seat, visit

Marisol Becerra, 18 – Environmental Justice Mapzine

In 2003, Becerra volunteered with Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) to inventory toxins in her predominantly Mexican-American community in Chicago. Becerra learned that more than 60,000 youth living within two miles of the Fisk and Crawford Coal Power Plants breathe air that violates EPA standards. She launched the youth branch of LVEJO, Youth Activists Organizing as Today’s Leaders (YAOTL), and devised an interactive online map to educate her community about environmental injustices. The map uses facts and videos to educate about the different pollutants in Little Village that cause 41 premature deaths and 550 emergency room visits annually.

Jessie-Ruth Corkins, 17 – The Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative

Corkins is the core leader of The Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative (VSHI), a group of students from 26 high schools that strive for sustainable heating. In 2004, Corkins rose to a teacher’s challenge to create an energy conservation plan that could convince the school board to be more energy efficient by converting the school’s gas heater to a woodchip boiler fueled by local products. Corkins and VSHI developed a persuasive statewide plan to develop Vermont’s 100,000 acres of underutilized land to grow prairie grass for a revolutionary grass pelletization fuel system.

Kari Fulton, 22 – Loving Our City, Loving Ourselves

Fulton worked on two environmental justice projects that inspire people on both the local and national levels. On the local level, she co-founded Loving Our City, Loving Ourselves (LOCLOS), which works to build stronger campus and community solidarity on issues of concern in the Washington, DC area. On a national level, Fulton works as the Energy Action Coalition Coordinator for the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, where she has become a pioneer organizer building up the youth climate movement among people of color.

Timothy Den Herder-Thomas, 21 – Social Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Community Development

Den Herder-Thomas led the creation of Macalester College’s Clean Energy Revolving Fund (CERF), a student-designed financial pool that funds energy-efficiency projects on campus. Beyond campus, Den Herder-Thomas and his program, Cooperative Energy Futures, convened labor groups, non-profits, local businesses, and students to engage with the City of St. Paul in designing sustainable, mixed-use development on the site of a closed Ford plant. The plan focuses on green manufacturing, mixed-income residential units, carbon neutrality, and mass transportation.

Phebe Meyers, 18 – Change the World Kids - Bosque Para Siempre

Growing up, Meyers noticed fewer songbirds at her Vermont feeders each year and was inspired to find the reason for their absence, which lay in the deforested pastures that were once Costa Rican rainforest. She shared her concern about the migratory bird crisis with Change the World Kids, a teen-run nonprofit organization she founded in 1998. The group eventually raised $165,000 to purchase, conserve, and reforest areas critical to birds. Meyers continues to educate youth about the global interconnectedness of the environment and climate change, the importance of conservation for current and future generations, the value of helping others, and collaboration.

Ivan Stiefel, 22 – Mountain Justice Spring Break

Stiefel spearheaded the creation of an alternative spring break for university students to stand in solidarity with communities affected by the Appalachian coal industry. In 2007, the West Virginia Mountain Justice Spring Break focused on securing a safe school for the children of Marshfork Elementary, which lies only a few yards from a coal silo, a coal-processing plant leaking coal slurry impoundment, and a mountaintop removal mine. The week culminated in students occupying the governor’s office until he agreed to build a safe new school for Marshfork children.

– Sharon Smith

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