Each year the NWF receives numerous submissions from individuals and conservation partners who would like to honor conservation heroes.
Awardees have demonstrated that their efforts have benefited wildlife, natural resource conservation or environmental protection as an example and inspiration to others.
This year, the Youth award, which recognizes the special conservation achievements of young people, is being given to Bothell’s own Jessica Howe.
According to Lynn Hamilton, spokesperson for NWF, the teen is being honored for her “continual commitment to the environment, her leadership amongst her peers and dedication to the younger students in environmental programs.”
Hamilton notes that through Howe’s volunteer work, “she has demonstrated her growing passion for sustaining our environment while inspiring others to join her efforts.”
Jessica Howe’s interest in the environment was ignited when she was a seventh grader at Skyview Junior High, taking John Schmied’s earth science class.
One Saturday, she opted to participate in one of Schmied’s organized trail parties at the school’s Outdoor Environmental Educational Center.
Students were encouraged to attend the optional group work sessions, which were held several times a year, and many signed up for extra credit purposes; however, Howe decided to join simply out of curiosity.
“I really liked it,” she says of that first experience. “I enjoyed being outdoors and it was fun. That’s what initially motivated me to continue, but then I found that I looked forward to the work parties because I felt they were really worthwhile. We planted native plants, dug trails and removed invasive species — activities where you could see the results of your actions and know that you were having a direct positive impact on the environment.”
Howe, now a senior at Bothell High School, continued to participate in the work parties throughout junior high, while also serving as a teaching assistant for Schmied.
In high school, she began leading groups of younger kids at the work parties, returning to Skyview to help Schmied.
The teen also joined BHS’s Earth Club and became involved in the school’s recycling program, as well as in King County Green Schools program.
“The school had achieved Level 1 in the program before I came,” says Howe. “Level 1 focuses on recycling. Level 2 involves energy conservation, which is what I helped the school to achieve. And Level 3 is about water conservation, which is what we hope to attain in the future.”
She adds, “We’re also trying to get a compost program started at the school.”
The local teen is responsible for keeping BHS’s Earth Club going, as the group was solely composed of seniors when she joined as a sophomore.
After the seniors graduated, she succeeded in getting new members to continue the club’s activities.
For Howe, protecting and conserving the environment has become a passion and one that she is exploring within the parameters of her senior project.
She feels that humans are using way more resources than necessary and that our environmental problems will only worsen unless more people decide to act.
“Future generations will suffer unless we do something now to help the situation,” warns Howe. “Otherwise, it’s going to be too late.”
To this purpose, the teen is committed to educating youth about environmental issues and what they can do to conserve resources and live more sustainably.
“Children are more receptive to this issue,” she notes. “If we teach kids to care about the world around them when they are young, they will hopefully grow up and continue to care about it.”
It seems apt that this dedicated teen was recognized for her work in the environmental arena. In nominating Howe for National Wildlife Federation’s National Conservation Achievement Award, Schmied comments, “Jessica is tireless and devoted to improving our community’s environmental health. She has selflessly done environmentally-oriented service work both for school and the community while taking a rigorous set of honors, advanced placement and college courses in high school. She is also a three-sport athlete who has lettered in track, soccer and basketball and served as captain of the track and basketball teams. Additionally, she is editor of the BHS newspaper and features environmental editorials to keep interest up in the student body with regards to sustainability issues. And she is president of the BHS Earth Club. She is an outstanding candidate.”
Howe was very excited to learn she had won the award, as she never imagined that she would be recognized.
“I had basically forgotten about it, as I think the nomination was sent back in spring,” she admits. “I just didn’t expect to hear anything, so I was really surprised when I got the news. It’s quite an honor.”
The teen will be flown to Albuquerque in March to receive the award at NWF’s 77th annual meeting awards dinner. She will be presented with a large statuette of the endangered whooping crane, designed exclusively for NWF by Norman Deaton. As for future plans, Howe is heading to WSU in the fall to study biology or environmental science.