Kenai Central High School sophomore 15-year-old Freya Chay recently returned from San Francisco, where she was one of six young Americans to be honored to receive the National Brower Youth Award (BYA). In a news release, BYA stated that young people who have yet to celebrate their 23rd birthdays are today responsible for some of North America's most prominent environmental victories, such as creating incentives for homeowners to invest in clean energy. That was exactly what Chay accomplished as a high school freshman through her Caring for the Kenai project this spring, when Alaska's Governor, Sean Parnell, signed such incentives into law.
Sponsored by Chevron and Tesoro, and administered by the Kenai Watershed Forum, the Caring for the Kenai (CFK) community partnership is now in its 21st year. It is a compelling program that challenges high school students of the Kenai Peninsula to answer the prompt: "What can I do, invent, or create to better care for the environment of the Kenai Peninsula or improve the area's preparedness for a natural disaster?" After taking first place in this local competition, Freya went on to be nominated for the Brower Youth Award. "I was the youngest of the six recipients and spent an event-filled week in San Francisco bonding and networking with people who are doing incredible and inspiring work. It was an amazing experience overall," said Freya in an interview with the Dispatch.
Chay was presented with her award and a $3,000 cash prize at a public ceremony at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco with nearly 900 people in attendance. The other BYA prize recipients included:
Marcus Grignon, 21, of Wisconsin, for encouraging sustainability on the Menominee Reservation
De'Anthony Jones, 18, of California, for creating a local environmentally focused youth culture
Ana Elisa Prez-Quintero, 20, of Puerto Rico, who started an organization dedicated to promoting environmental education
Varsha Vijay, 22, of Iowa, for equipping Ecuadorians with biodiversity preservation technologies
Misra Walker, 18, of New York, who lobbied to extend a bus line to the only riverside park in nearby neighborhoods.
The winners were selected from hundreds of applicants across America. The eight judges for the award are leaders in business, journalism and academia.
Early this Fall, BYA sent Rikshaw Films, an award winning documentary film-making team from Minneapolis, MN to Kenai. Rikshaw Films made this journey to produce a documentary about Freya's CFK idea, her teacher Kristin Davis, and community leaders who worked with her to turn her idea into legislation. "The entire experience has energized me to want to be around people who are inspired to do incredible things for their community. Now I feel like I have allies to do whatever I want do the rest of my life," she said. To see the BYA Freya Chay documentary or to learn more about the 2011 CFK partnership go to www.caringforthekenai.com and log on to the link on the CFK Facebook page. More information about all of the 2010 BYA recipients is available online at www.broweryouthawards.org.
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