THE BROWER YOUTH AWARDS: Supporting Young Activists Pursuing Innovative Solutions

About the Author

Anisha Desai is currently the Program Director of the New Leaders Initiative (NLI) at Earth Island Institute, which raises the profile of young emerging environmental leaders in North America and provides them with skills, resources, and relationships to lead effective campaigns and projects. The NLI also confers the Brower Youth Awards, the premier North American awards honoring bold young environmental leaders. Formerly, Anisha served as the Executive Director of the Women of Color Resource Center in Oakland and the Program Director of United for a Fair Economy in Boston.

Creative, passionate, and technology-savvy, a new generation of young people is ushering in a new era of social activism, working collaboratively, interactively, and entrepreneurially to effect positive change in their local communities and beyond. The New Leaders Initiative and its annual Brower Youth Awards aims to identify and support a diverse range of young people pursuing innovative solutions to a variety of environmental and social problems.

Each year, NLI recognizes six bold leaders between the ages of 13-22 for their contributions on behalf of the planet.  The awards week, which includes a wilderness retreat, media training, and speaking engagements culminating in an evening ceremony, is a life-changing experience for the winners. In addition to receiving acclaim for their efforts, NLI provides opportunities for awardees to interact with a larger group of environmental activists and provides ongoing mentoring and support to these young achievers beyond the week of BYA activities.

With that being said, we would like to introduce you to this year’s Brower Youth Awards winners. There is a special buzz in the air this year, because it’s our 15th Anniversary!

It’s been a time for a little reflection on our accomplishments and a whole lot of anticipation for the arrival of our winners.

As David Brower, namesake of the beloved award once said, “I’m always impressed with what young people can do before older people tell them that it is impossible.” Check out these highlights from the past decade and a half, showing exactly what is possible:

  • 92 young activists honored
  • 8,500+ attendees to our free, public awards ceremony
  • 2 Emmy wins and three nominations for short films profiling our winners
  • Over 80% of alumni are working for environmental and social change
  • Over $250,000 funds granted to award winners and honorable mention applicants

We invite you to join us for the 15th Annual Brower Youth Awards on October 21 at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco. To reserve your free seat, or to purchase tickets for the VIP reception where you can meet the winners, visit:

For a sneak peak, read about our winners here:

Tiffany Carey, 22
Detroit, Michigan

Tiffany Carey strongly believes that environmental research should involve members of the community. As an environmental studies major at the University of Michigan, she designed a research project involving students from Detroit’s Western International High School and focusing on asthma and allergy rates in urban areas. Her project confirmed that vacant lots were pollen abundant, and she went on to focus on solutions such as urban reforestation of these lots, tracking the impact of these efforts and involving the high schoolers every step of the way.

Tsechu Dolma, 21
Woodside, New York

Ethnographic research assistant Dolma proposed a community greenhouse in her homeland of Nepal to address issues of food and water security and to help make local farmers more climate resilient. Furthermore, this greenhouse is to be built in a school so that it will provide a platform for intergenerational sharing and collaboration, providing local youth with valuable tools for their future.

Jackson Koeppel, 21
Highland Park, Michigan

In response to a majority of the streetlights in Highland Park, MI being decommissioned (to ameliorate a $4 million municipal debt), Jackson Koeppel co-founded Souladarity – a community organization that’s coordinating the installation of 200 solar streetlights and organizing a cooperative of residents, businesses, organizations, and institutions. The solar streetlights are affordable, environment-friendly, and provide a powerful avenue for engaging local citizens in conversations about sustainability and community resilience.

Sean Russell, 22
North Port, Florida

At 16, native Floridian Sean Russell created the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project, an effort to combat the negative impact of marine debris – especially discarded fishing line and gear – on marine wildlife. Youth involved with the project turn re-purposed tennis ball containers into fishing line recycling bins and distribute them to anglers while educating them about the importance of proper disposal of their line. Since its launch, the project has expanded to engage youth and partner organizations in 10 states. In 2011 Russell launched the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit. This annual summit provides youth with the skills needed to launch their own conservation projects and has inspired hundreds of students across the country to get involved in ocean conservation.

Doorae Shin, 22
Honolulu, Hawai‘i

Doorae Shin fell in love with Hawai‘i as a freshman at the University of Hawaii’s Mānoa campus on O‘ahu. But while walking through campus and around the island she noticed EPS foam (better known as Styrofoam) food packaging littering the streets and sidewalks. In the fall of 2012, with help from the Surfrider Foundation, Shin led a group of students on a petition drive calling for a ban on Styrofoam products on campus. The petition gathered 1,000 signatures and the university passed a resolution banning single-use foam packaging from all campus dining locations.

Lynnea Shuck, 17
Fremont, California

Lynnea Shuck spearheaded the creation and implementation of the Junior Refuge Ranger Program at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge to educate youth in the community about the critical role wildlife refuges play in protecting threatened and endangered species. Through a series of labs, habitat hikes, and birding expeditions, the Junior Refuge Ranger program teaches children aged 8 to 11 important lessons about conservation, endangered species protection, habitat restoration, and environmental awareness. The participants come away with an appreciation of nature and the critical role they play in protecting it. Shuck hopes to expand the program to all the 555 refuges within the National Wildlife Refuge System.

More Reading and Resources



WHY I WEAR JORDANS IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS: A Natural Leader Builds Bridges Between Worlds


THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NATURE: A New Generation Works for the Human Right to Connect with the Natural World and a Healthy Environment

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