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The Rockefeller Foundation Selects New York City Students For Inaugural Wangari Maathai Environmental Award

NEW YORK, Feb. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Rockefeller Foundation announced today the winners of the 2012 Wangari Maathai Award for Civic Participation in Sustainability, an annual $10,000 cash scholarship awarded to two New York City public high school seniors.


The winners – Cecil Brooks, Jr., a student at South Bronx Preparatory School Academy, and Awa Sow, a student at Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School – 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

Inaugurated by The Rockefeller Foundation, the Bette Midler Family Trust, and MillionTreesNYC, the Wangari Maathai Award was established in honor of Dr. Wangari Maathai. Dr. Maathai was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, 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.

"Dr. Wangari Maathai is an inspiration for those who care about social and ecological resilience and equity, and seek to promote the spirit of civic engagement within their communities," said Dr. Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. "We are proud to honor her legacy by awarding the inaugural Wangari Maathai Award for Civic Participation and Sustainability." 

Cecil Brooks, Jr. is a member of the Youth Leadership Council for the Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF), a comprehensive, non-profit supplemental education and youth development organization that helps motivated students develop the intellectual curiosity, academic ability, social values, and personal resiliency they need to ensure success in school, career, and life. HEAF identifies students in middle school and supports them until they have successfully graduated from four-year colleges through a variety of after-school, Saturday, and summer educational and youth development programs.  Mr. Brooks and HEAF's Youth Leadership Council conducted a year-long project in Harlem focused on a recycling campaign and the adoption of community trees.  The project included weekly verbal presentations about their efforts to other students their own age.  Mr. Brooks has been accepted to Colby College, where he plans to study issues related to public policy. 

Awa Sow, through her participation in the Student Climate and Conservation Congress in Washington, D.C., began a Green Club to coordinate her school's sustainability efforts.  Ms. Sow's efforts have resulted not only in raised awareness about sustainability but reduced energy consumption, tree-planting, and her school's participation in cleaning the Bronx River and Bronx Park.  Her efforts have included a video in which many different stakeholders throughout her school – from students to teachers to facilities personnel – articulate the importance of green practices from a variety of viewpoints.  Ms. Sow designed the Green Club to continue its activities after she has left high school.  Upon completion of college, Ms. Sow plans to return to her native Senegal to promote the use of solar panels to allow for longer school days and the use of diverse technologies for students and faculty. 

The selection jury consisted of members of The Rockefeller Foundation, the New York Restoration Project, the Fund for Public Schools, the Greenbelt Movement, and MillionTreesNYC. 

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