Four Arizona students win President’s Environmental Award; Foursome is one of 10 winners nationwide to receive prestigious award
Today in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented one of 10 national President’s Environmental Youth Awards to four Arizona students who give Mahatma Gandhi’s famous motto, “Think Globally, Act Locally,” a whole new meaning.
Sophmore high school students Smitha Ramakrishna, Pooja Ramesh, Amol Lingnurka and Akash Khare follow their own adage that one must “Think and Act Globally and Locally.”
“These students are to be applauded for their commitment to making the environment in their communities and across the globe better,” said Wayne Nastri, the EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Due to their creative work, the environment and communities will benefit for years to come.”
After a visit to India shed light on the lack of drinking water for kids living in slums, the four students, in conjunction with Asha for Education, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children in India, formed their own Asha Kid’s Chapter to raise money for underprivileged children in India.
In honor of Gandhi, the students raised $5,400 through three walk-a-thons that funded three projects in India to promote basic education for underprivileged children, and bought and built reverse osmosis systems for schools and neighborhoods. By collecting rainwater and purifying it with the systems, over 3,000 children have clean, potable water to drink and use.
In addition to helping children in India, the students also began the Arizona Water Activists Karing for the Environment (AWAKE) to aid the Save the Peaks Coalition effort and raise awareness on pressing local water issues in their communities. The Save the Peaks Coalition, an organization formed by 14 Native American tribes, is against using artificial snow made from recycled sewage water on the San Francisco Peaks -- a mountain range considered sacred by the native people.
To support the coalition, the students took four water samples from over thirty lakes and ponds in the range and its drainage area three times over a one-year period. Their data showed the reclaimed water contained high levels of many contaminants, especially coliform. To publicize their findings, the students wrote letters to the governor and other state and local officials.
They collected over 300 signatures against using artificial snow, which is now an ongoing court case. And, as reclaimed water in Arizona is used to irrigate many parks, the students believe that periodic testing of reclaimed water is critical for public health.
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