Kaneland High School, Elburn
Audrey Batts developed her love of nature as a preteen, studying the decline in populations of pollinating bees, and as a teenager participating in the annual Backyard Bird Count, monitoring frogs and studying the importance of freshwater mussels in Illinois waterways. A member of the FFA at Kaneland High School, Batts credits camps at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center and her volunteer work at the Cosley Zoo in Wheaton with spurring interest in conserving Illinois’ native wildlife. Her work at the zoo has included assisting in wildlife education programs for the public. She and fellow students also assisted in tree planting at the Big Rock Forest Preserve in Kane County. Batts plans to attend Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, enrolling in the Animal Science program.
Evanston Township High School, Evanston
Henry Eberhart recalls his interest in conservation and sustainability emerged at age 6 when he helped prompt a change in school policy and started a recycling program. Beginning as a high school sophomore, he served on the Evanston mayor’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan working group to formulate city policies intended to help Evanston become carbon neutral, expand use of renewable energy and cut citywide waste output over the next 30 years. Eberhart also worked with Environmental Justice Evanston (EJE), conducting a survey and examining inequities in trash removal in low-income communities of color, and addressing with fellow students and community leaders the effects of climate change relative to racial and economic issues. He also led student protests over a lack of action on climate change issues. Eberhart plans to attend Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire where he hopes to continue his conservation activism while enrolled in the Native American Studies program.
Taylorville High School, Taylorville
Alex Morelock says his interest in conservation started early, when he attended events for youth hunters and hunters with disabilities with his father, an Illinois Conservation Police Officer. From helping build a pond and working on invasive plant removal on his grandparents’ property, he carried his conservation ethic to service projects at Taylorville High School. Morelock organized a student Green Committee to work on trash cleanups in the community and fundraise for local ecofriendly causes. Students also planned an Earth Day event. Morelock plans to attend Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri studying in the Pre-Law and Political Science programs with an interest in specializing in environmental law.
John F. Kennedy High School, Chicago
Natalia Rosinski first joined fellow biology students her freshman year at John F. Kennedy High School in Chicago in volunteering at Cook County’s Arie Crown Forest Preserve assisting in invasive plant removal as a community service project. That work hooked her on conservation efforts and habitat restoration. Summer conservation internships through the Chicago Conservation Leadership Corps led to habitat work at the nearby Theodore Stone Forest, cutting invasive buckthorn, honeysuckle, Canada thistle, canary reed grass and white sweet clover to enhance the woodlands, oak savanna and prairie, helping native species to return and preserving the natural ecosystem. She’s recommended the internships to other students. Rosinski also volunteers at Bemis Woods and Bob Mann Woods forest preserves on invasive plant removal, helping inexperienced volunteers learn about the value of habitat restoration. Rosinski plans to attend DePaul University in Chicago and enroll in the College of Science and Health.