2017 Marine Debris
Creative Advocacy Competition

The Challenge: Design and lead a campaign in your school or community that creatively educates others and inspires action to reduce or prevent marine debris.

Gold Award • $5,000

“The Blue Earth”

Blue Brasher-Rues

Fayetteville High School, Grade 9
Fayetteville, AR
Sponsor: Donna Mulhollan, Community Member

Blue Brasher-Rues was inspired to show her landlocked community of Fayetteville, Arkansas, that even though they are far from the coast, their actions impact the ocean. To raise awareness and concern about the issue of marine debris, Blue planned and curated a student art show and open mic event called “The Blue Earth.” Blue partnered with nonprofit OMNI Center for Peace, Justice & Ecology to host the event, and secured donations and sponsorships from many local businesses. The successful event connected hundreds of attendees with each other and the environment through visual art, poetry, music, and storytelling. Community members left with grocery bags made from recycled t-shirts and feelings of hope and possibility for creating a wave of positive change.

Silver Award • $2,500

“The Ripple Effect”

Group Leaders: Clarissa Jacobo Hernandez, Canon Stringer, Dani Hilmen, Ty Cox

High Tech Middle North County
San Marcos, CA
Sponsor: Chris Olivas, Teacher

Students involved in "The Ripple Effect" led several projects to raise awareness about plastic pollution, including participating in beach cleanups, creating a children's book about marine debris, building an informational website and social media campaign, hosting an exhibition for their school community, and raising money to purchase a water bottle filling station at their school. The highlight of their project was creating a life-size whale sculpture out of marine debris, now prominently displayed in their school. Thanks to their hard work, they were able to shift the culture of their school to be more focused on environmental conservation.

Bronze Awards • $1,000

“Stop the World from Sailing
into Dirty Waters”

Alekhya Pidugu

Little Rock Central High School, Grade 9
Little Rock, AR
Sponsor: Amy Snodgrass, Teacher

Alekhya took on the issue of marine debris as part of a service learning project at her school. To shape her outreach strategy, she conducted research on the issue and surveyed classmates and community members to get a better understanding of attitudes and behaviors related to environmental protection. Alekhya’s goal was to show community members that while the ocean may be out of sight from Little Rock, Arkansas, threats facing it should not be out of mind. In addition to creating an informational website and social media campaign, Alekhya presented to 150 students at a local elementary school, exhibited her research at the Clinton Presidential Center, and spoke with Arkansas congressman French Hill about the issue.

“A Plastic Ocean”

Addie Farmer and Lainey Randall

King Middle School, Grade 7
Portland, ME
Sponsor: Jill Roland, Teacher

Addie and Lainey launched a campaign to raise awareness of and inspire action around marine debris by introducing NOAA’s Marine Debris Tracker mobile application to their Portland, Maine, community. The duo set an ambitious goal for the community to collect and log 5,000 pieces of trash in approximately one month. Addie and Lainey conducted multiple outreach activities, including: communicating with their school community through posters, newsletters, and morning announcements; testifying before the Portland City Council; and presenting to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. They were even featured on a local television news segment! Addie and Lainey concluded their campaign with a clean-up at East End Beach. They were joined by 30 volunteers who picked up litter and used the Marine Debris Tracker app to log in data – together, they collected nearly 6,000 pieces of trash, bringing the month-long total to almost 8,000 items – 3,000 over their initial goal!

Honorable mentions • $500

“NHSS Ocean Advocacy”

Ethan Roy, Alison Bell, Elizabeth Thibeault, Joshua Kuns, Charles McKelvey, Alexis Boucouvalas, Owen Duda, Hildaliza Gonzalez, Nathan Grant, Amelia Guarino, Narissa Hill, Olivia Kingston, Zachary Lernoux, Molly McInnis, Bailey Morin, Sam Petrillo, Evenor Pineda, Juliann Risteen, Alex Sanchez, Julia Vieira, Connor Woodward, Nathan Zalzal, and Andrea Nav

Nashua High School South, Grade 9
Nashua, NH
Sponsor: Lisa Arciprete-Cronin, Teacher

These students’ goal was to educate Nashua, New Hampshire, community members – specifically young kids and families – about the issue of litter and marine debris. The class raised money for, planned, and hosted an informational table at a community event that featured games, food, and face painting. Despite a rainy day, the students were able to educate many families about watersheds and the marine debris issue, as well as actions they can take to reduce and prevent plastic consumption and pollution. Participating in the project not only helped students gain presentation, collaboration, and creativity skills, but also increased their empathy for the natural world. Students found that they were more aware of their surroundings – and, in particular, pollution – after working on this project. They are confident that they can continue to make a difference to help the marine environment.


Hannah Gennaro, Molly Roher, Elliot Gear

York High School , Grades 9-12
York, ME
Sponsor: Nicole Masterson, Librarian

OnePiece is a pledge developed by the York High School Sustainability Club with the goal of reducing marine debris through behavior change in beach goers. Participating students want picking up “one piece” of litter to become a universal habit. Through OnePiece, beach goers pledge to pick up at least one piece of trash before leaving a beach, to educate others about marine debris, and to consume less. The group made announcements and posters about their initiative that they shared with local schools, hosted a beach cleanup, and designed a marine debris mural in honor or World Oceans Day. The students hope that their positive and simple pledge will spread throughout the world and that many individuals’ small actions will have a big impact on the world’s oceans!

“Maurice the Marine Debris Whale”

Soo Bin Cho, Cheyenne Bridge, Sage Nelson, Lauren Richardson

Newport Beach Office of Natural Resources, Grades 11-12
Irvine/Newport, CA
Sponsor: Aimee Arvidson, Internship Coordinator

As interns for the city of Newport Beach’s Office of Natural Resources, participating students Soo Bin, Cheyenne, Sage, and Lauren researched the issue of marine debris, conducted local clean ups, and analyzed their findings. The group wanted to show others how litter has a direct impact on marine wildlife, and they designed “Maurice” – a whale mural painted on a wooden board with a garbage bag for a stomach. They used this sculpture for educational outreach activities, and brought Maurice to a local pier, where they encouraged visitors to pick up trash and deposit it in Maurice’s “stomach.” The team found that their interactive mural greatly enhanced their conversations about marine debris with beach goers of all ages. This project helped the participants grow as environmental advocates, leaders, and creative communicators.


“Saving the Earth One Bottle At a Time”

Saba Gulzar and Kathleen Gray

New Hyde Park Memorial High School , Grade 9
New Hyde Park, NY
Sponsor: Allison Radonis, Teacher

“Bryce the Microplastic Guy”

Bryce Curtis, Karra Ideozu, Maegan Daley, Sarah Osman

Redondo Union High School , Grade 12
Redondo Beach, CA
Sponsor: Gillian Moberg, Teacher

“How Plastic Affects Fish”

Matthew Yonemura, Siena Vida, Julia Selth, Kimiko Fujisaki

Redondo Union High School , Grade 12
Redondo Beach, CA
Sponsor: Gillian Moberg, Teacher

“I must admit I am one of those people who did not know how big of an issue ocean pollution is, and one of the main things that I learned is that 14 billion pounds of trash enter the ocean every year. After this project, I am very cautious about how my family and I throw away our trash. I also want to continue educating people about ocean pollution and ways to prevent it.”

— Alekhya Pidugu



“This project taught me that I can do anything. There is no better feeling than to feel passionate about something and then go out and do something about it... I am ecstatic to know that I can do anything I set my mind to! And I want everyone in my generation to know that they can too.”

— Blue Brasher-Rues



“It is one thing to read about the impacts of marine debris and hear how bad it is but this project really showed us how real it is.”

— Addie Farmer and Lainey Randall



“This project has me thinking differently. I have learned that a bunch of people doing small things can create a huge impact, and I have also learned that I don’t have to wait until I have a college degree to better my planet!”

— OnePiece Student Group



“As our environmental knowledge increased, our passion increased as well. We were astounded by the amount of marine debris found at the beach and its impact on wildlife. We feel more strongly about environmental advocacy, and want to contribute to greater environmental awareness.”

— Maurice the Marine Debris Whale Student Group