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.

2018 Winners

Gold Award • $5,000

“No Straw November” by Shelby O’Neil

San Benito High School, Grade 11
San Juan Bautista, CA

Shelby O’Neil, founder of Jr Ocean Guardians, took her passion for marine life one step further by launching a campaign to raise awareness of a pervasive form of marine litter: single-use plastic straws. She encouraged the California Coastal Commission to formally adopt a resolution declaring the month of November to be “No Straw November,” then leveraged her relationship with the Girl Scouts to spread the word globally about her campaign. Shelby challenged individuals to refuse plastic straws for an entire month while keeping a tally of how many straws were prevented from potentially ending up in the ocean. Shelby also contacted executives at national companies to encourage them to eliminate their use of plastic straws in their business operations; through her efforts, she persuaded Alaska Airlines and Dignity Health to do so, among others. By engaging individuals and corporations in No Straw November, Shelby is helping to eliminate tens of millions of plastic straws annually.

What the Judges Loved: Shelby’s fearlessness in contacting business executives demonstrates the power of youth to affect real, tangible change.

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Silver Award • $2,500

“Arts4Oceans” by Ali Arce, Ruya Arce, Katherine Chou & Grace Wei

Hamilton High School, Grades 10-12
Chandler, AZ

Members of Hamilton Arts4Hearts engaged their peers and local organizations to create a “wave” of awareness about marine debris in their community. They partnered with ICAN, an afterschool program for at-risk youth, to teach younger students about ocean pollution and recycling. They worked with their local library to host an ocean advocacy art show that featured inspirational pieces from ICAN students, high schoolers, and artists from local studios. The centerpiece of the show was a shadow art sculpture that was created with trash collected by Hamilton Arts4Hearts’ classmates. The design of the sculpture represents how interconnected humans are to their environment: a giant wave looms over the city, but a child stands in the way in an effort to save our ocean and ourselves.

What the Judges Loved: The symbolism of the shadow art sculpture aligned perfectly with Hamilton Arts4Hearts’ efforts to educate and activate younger children in ocean conservation.

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Bronze Award • $1,000

“Stop the Plastic Bottles. GO ENVION!” by Jae Whee Park

Seoul International School, Grade 11
Johns Creek, GA

Going to school in a country where drinking from the tap is considered socially taboo despite having some of the world’s cleanest water, Jae Whee’s ultimate goal is to start a national movement to increase reuseable water bottle usage. He recognized, however, that lofty ambitions often require incremental successes. Therefore, he created the concept of Envion – a service mark that symbolizes the availability of free filtered or purified water – and set his sights on convincing the administrative staff of a local park under construction to become the first public facility in Korea to adopt it. Jae Whee’s presentation to the Magok Central Park staff included a thorough overview of the country’s plastic bottle waste problem and primary research on community members’ positive attitudes towards the Envion concept. He created a logo that helped officials visualize how they could promote their environmental commitment via signage, advertisements, and even a potential mobile app. Jae Whee’s presentation was enthusiastically received, and the park staff agreed to move forward with a feasibility study.

What the Judges Loved: Jae Whee brought his concept to life through visuals that showed his target audience how a theoretical idea could be implemented in the real world.

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Bronze Award • $1,000

“New Ocean Blue” by Emily Adams, Elyssa Agresti, Petra Engstrom, Soren Engstrom, Yi Liu, Nico Mejia, Evan Mickelson, Grace Sandel, Sophie Schmitter, Sydney Schmitter & Julian Stern

Pacific Ridge School, Grades 9-11
Carlsbad, CA

New Ocean Blue members believe that teaching children to be conscious of their environmental impact at a young age creates conservation stewards for life. Therefore, they focused their efforts on teaching local elementary students about plastic pollution through a creative, interactive presentation that integrated stop-motion video and hands-on activities – the students’ favorite part was pretending to be an ocean gyre! In addition, New Ocean Blue conducts beach clean-ups and encourages their school to reduce single-use plastic in its daily operations.

What the Judges Loved: In their presentation, New Ocean Blue taught students about specific and easy ways they can reduce their own plastic use at the source, in order not to rely on recycling or reusing.

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Bronze Award • $1,000

“ECO Club” by Sophia Antone, Maddie Brown, Noah Casson, Anna Everett, Angela Hester & Dylan Kohl

Pensacola School of Liberal Arts, Grades 8 and 10
Pensacola, FL

To do something about the increasing amount of pollution they were finding on their local beaches, students from the Pensacola School of Liberal Arts created a new group: ECO Club SoLA. They hosted beach clean-ups and tabled at events, educating attendees about the marine debris problem in their coastal community through informational posters and sculptures they created from the trash collected at the clean-ups. They engaged community members in tackling the problem by distributing containers for them to collect debris, selling reusable shopping bags, and encouraging them to sign a petition requesting that the city council implement community recycling. ECO Club SoLA members forged effective partnerships with local businesses, who donated products and supplies.

What the Judges Loved: ECO Club SoLA used something unpleasant – marine debris – to create beautiful sculptures of animals that brought to light a serious problem facing their coastal community.

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Honorable Mention • $500

“Recycling Rovers” by Riley Morgan, Michael Yuska & Jose Zubiria

St Mary Magdalen School, Grade 7
Maitland, FL

The Recycling Rovers formed a new Eco Club at their school to educate and engage their peers in tackling the marine debris issue. Members created a trivia game that was presented during the lunch periods to test students’ knowledge of plastic pollution. The Recycling Rovers also served as lunch monitors to make sure their classmates disposed of their trash and recyclables correctly. They also hosted many schoolwide activities: a campus clean-up, student environmental poster contest, upcycled art project featuring endangered marine animals, and a plastic bottle cap art campaign.

What the Judges Loved: The Recycling Rovers provided multiple creative ways for their classmates to learn about and help fight marine debris – all from their school.

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Honorable Mention • $500

“One Less Plastic Bag” by Ben Ford

Upper Dublin High School, Grade 11
Dresher, PA

Ben had a specific goal in mind: to educate local community members about the harmful impacts of single-use plastic bags on our environment and encourage them to change their habits by selling reusable alternatives. Ben enlisted help from his school’s design class to create a logo, and secured sponsorships from six local corporations to fund the production of the reusable bags. He partnered with a local nonprofit organization, the Ambler Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), who connected him to community events where he educated attendees about plastic pollution and sold his bags. Ben donated the money raised to the Ambler EAC’s tree-planting program.

What the Judges Loved: Ben recognized the value of partnerships and engaged others in everything from logo design to networking to implement a successful campaign.

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Honorable Mention • $500

“Marine Debris Program” by Tyler Hampton, Jaquan Pollard, Sydney Rush & Anisa Thomas

Dwight Morrow High School, Grade 11
Englewood, NJ

When Marine Debris Team members discovered that the subject of ocean pollution is not taught to their community’s youngest students despite the increasing amount of litter in their neighborhoods and waterways, they decided to fill the gap. They forged a partnership with their local library to host educational and entertaining workshops targeted for children ages 3-7. At each session, the Marine Debris Team gave a presentation on a specific topic – such as runoff and recycling – and supplemented it with a creative, hands-on activity to bring the lesson to life.

What the Judges Loved: Marine Debris Team’s workshops were thoughtfully planned to include fun games, crafts, and activities that appealed to their young, energetic audience.

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Notable Submissions • $100

“Saving Our Oceans: One Step at a Time” by Connie Liu

Upper Dublin High School, Grade 11
Ambler, PA

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“Oceanus 8” by Katie Brown, Amy Cheng, Emma Ciao, Julia Fam, Swati Goel, Gregory Hess, Rachel Hollett, Charles Huai, Nikola Zoe Pflasterer, Caroline Ro, Callie Roesenzweig, Elijah Schacter, Kendra Smaby, Renee Su, Ryan Wang, Serena Wang & Audrey Xie

Henry M. Gunn High School, Grades 10-11
Stanford, CA

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“Save Our Seas” by Madison Anderson, Valerie Barajas, Temre Campbell, Chloe Kelley & Olivia Workman

Bluffton High School, Grades 11-12
Bluffton, SC

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“A Giant Leap for Marine Debris” by Angelu Jimeno, Jordan Kreitner, Dylan Marciano & Kaiden Roque

Bluffton High School, Grades 11-12
Bluffton, SC

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2017 Winners

Gold Award • $5,000

“The Blue Earth”

Blue Brasher-Rues

Fayetteville High School, Grade 9
Fayetteville, AR

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.

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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

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.

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Bronze Award • $1,000

“A Plastic Ocean”

Addie Farmer and Lainey Randall

King Middle School, Grade 7
Portland, ME

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!

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Bronze Award • $1,000

“Stop the World from Sailing into Dirty Waters”

Alekhya Pidugu

Little Rock Central High School, Grade 9
Little Rock, AR

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.

Honorable Mention • $500


Hannah Gennaro, Molly Roher, Elliot Gear

York High School , Grades 9-12
York, ME

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!

Honorable Mention • $500

“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

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.

Honorable Mention • $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

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.

Notable Submissions • $100

“How Plastic Affects Fish”

Matthew Yonemura, Siena Vida, Julia Selth, Kimiko Fujisaki

Redondo Union High School , Grade 12
Redondo Beach, CA

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“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

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“Bryce the Microplastic Guy”

Bryce Curtis, Karra Ideozu, Maegan Daley, Sarah Osman

Redondo Union High School, Grade 12
Redondo Beach, CA

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