DHS graduate receives national environmental award

October 31, 2003|HERB BROCK

During her junior and senior years at Danville High School Eva Nyerges put an old environmental slogan to work. She thought globally and acted locally - and now she has won nationally.

For her work in founding an environmental club at DHS and organizing the club's aggressive recycling program at the school and in the community, Nyerges recently received one of 10 President's Environmental Youth Awards for 2002. The 2003 DHS grad was presented the award a few days ago in Washington, D.C., at a banquet hosted by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For the last 32 years, the EPA has given 10 youth awards - one award for a student from each of its 10 regions - to honor young people who have made a "positive contribution to environmental education."

Nyerges, now a freshman at Mount Holyoke College, started the DHS chapter of Roots and Shoots, a worldwide environmental organization founded by internationally-renowned environmentalist and animal rights advocate Jane Goodall. Applicants for the youth awards are to write essays as part of their applications, and Nyerges made Goodall the subject of her essay.


"There didn't appear to be a lot of environmental awareness at Danville High, at least there was not an active program of any kind," said Nyerges. "I thought there were enough students and faculty who were environmentally aware and environmentally conscious that we could do something."

That "something" turned out to be the formation of the Roots and Shoots Club in Nyerges' junior year, in 2001-02.

"I have been inspired and influenced by Jane Goodall, and I knew of her Roots and Shoots program. I thought we could have our own club at the high school," she said.

Nyerges took her idea to DHS biology teacher Patricia Calvert and the idea soon became a new club at DHS, with Nyerges as its president and Calvert as its sponsor. The next step was to come up with an agenda for the club, which has a wide-ranging creed.

The club was formed to "teach about the effect that humans have on the environment, promote conservation, spread the word of peace and cultural awareness, raise and donate money for programs that benefit the environment and protect the animal community."

Nyerges and Calvert had to turn the noble creed into practical action.

"There are so many environmental projects that can be done, projects that involve clean air, clean water, protecting land and forests and animals," said Nyerges. "We decided it would be best, for a small club like ours, to focus on one project area and we decided it would be recycling."

Roots and Shoots undertook several projects

Under the leadership of Nyerges and club sponsor Calvert, the Roots and Shoots Club:

* Launched an in-school recycling program and made periodic announcements to get students involved in the program.

* Organized various Earth Day events in the spring of 2003, including putting on programs to inform and educate students about various environmental issues and hosting a presentation by a group called the Environmental Street Theatre. DHS had not celebrated Earth Day.

* Partnered with students and faculty at Centre College in putting on environmental projects.

* Partnered with students at Montessori Middle School in a recycling project.

* Got involved with projects involving the Herrington Lake Conservation League and the Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge.

Calvert said the club, which this school year has 15 members, is continuing the work started by Nyerges.

"This club was Eva's inspiration, and she was the one who laid the foundation and developed the blueprint, and we're trying to follow it," said Calvert.

While Nyerges' work in founding and organizing Roots and Shoots should have made her worthy of the award, her essay should have left little doubt for the judges, Calvert said.

"That essay was a beautiful tribute to the woman (Goodall) who inspired her and influenced her to do something environmentally positive on the local level," Calvert said. "I am sure all the award winners are deserving, but I can't think of anyone more deserving of this kind of recognition than Eva."

DHS Principal Angela Johnson agreed.

"Eva was an outstanding student here, both in the school community as well as in the classroom," Johnson said. "She took a global concern and made it a local project by starting and leading our school's recycling program and educating students and faculty about the environment in the bargain."

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