Six young Maine change-makers have been honored as the inaugural group of Brookie Award winners for their leadership and effectiveness working on environmental issues. The Brookie Awards is a new statewide recognition program organized by NRCM Rising, the young member arm of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, to elevate and amplify the voices of the rising generation of environmental leaders in Maine.
“I’m inspired by the winners, who all represent what is best about Maine’s environmental movement,” said NRCM CEO Lisa Pohlmann. “These young leaders are committed to acting on their values with creativity and passion to protect the nature of Maine. I look forward to listening and learning from them about how we can all work together toward a brighter, healthier, and stronger Maine for all.”
The geographically diverse group includes students, artists, and scientists ranging from ages 15 to 30 who are implementing solutions to environmental challenges ranging from climate action to bird conservation, and protection of shellfisheries.
- Gabrielle Hillyer of Orono is project coordinator and co-developer of the Maine Shellfish Learning Network where she works to protect the health of regional shellfisheries by bringing shellfish harvesters, coastal towns, researchers, state agencies, and other partners together. Hillyer is the designer of the Bucket Drifter, which is being used to measure the tides and other river water data to understand an estuary’s ability to get rid of bacteria that is harmful to shellfish.
- Sirohi Kumar of Bar Harbor is youth representative to the Bar Harbor Task Force on Climate, where she helped play a leadership role in the town’s climate emergency declaration and wrote a how-to guide for declaring a climate emergency in any Maine town.
- Logan Parker of Palermo is founder of the Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project, a monitoring program that mainstreams the collection of data on the Eastern Whip-poor-will and the Common Nighthawk—two species that face major threats throughout the entirety of their breeding ranges. This initiative also serves as a model for regional field naturalism.
- Jordan Parks of Portland is a sustainable materials artist who uses art to cultivate connections between people and places and to encourage activism. She developed and curated two outdoor interactive art exhibitions, Surface First Tilts West and Windward Exhibition. Her passion for spreading environmental awareness has been a result of her work as an environmental and outdoor educator.
- Riley Stevenson of Waldoboro is the outreach director for Maine Youth Climate Strikes and founder of the Coastal Youth Climate Coalition where she is building a statewide network to connect youth climate organizers and activists.
- Ania Wright of Bar Harbor is the youth representative to the Maine Climate Council, and founding member of both Maine Youth for Climate Justice and Downeast Climate Emergency Action Coalition. Wright is co-author of the Climate Justice Syllabus.
Brookie Award winners receive a $1,000 cash prize and the opportunity to attend a nature-based retreat with their fellow young environmental change-makers where they will participate in skill-building sessions and engage with other environmental and political leaders in Maine. The retreat aims to foster knowledge-sharing across generations and environmental movement-building by more deeply connecting these outstanding individuals to the nature of Maine and encouraging their ongoing commitment to environmentalism.
“The young leaders being recognized with Brookie Awards are using their voice, energy, and unique perspectives to protect what we all love about Maine,” said NRCM leadership giving director Fiona Gordon, who helped to create and manage the new Brookie Awards program. “They lead not just with powerful words but with effective action that brings Mainers together to create long-lasting change that we all benefit from.”
More than 40 young people across 12 of Maine’s 16 counties applied to receive Brookie Awards. The group of six winners were evaluated and chosen based on leadership, collective action, creativity, collaboration, persistence, and impact.
The Brookie Awards were made possible by the generosity and early partnership of the Quimby Family Foundation. To learn more about the Brookie Awards visit: https://www.brookieawards.org/