Derek Petrisko – Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Derek, 11, along with his two brothers, founded Wild Over Wildlife (WOW!), a club for kids in elementary school who want to learn about and help protect the environment. Of the three boys, Derek leads the group’s focus on ocean issues, which includes protecting loggerhead and green sea turtles via turtle walks, beach cleanups and raising nearly $5,000 for ocean-related charities. In addition, WOW! successfully petitioned three area restaurants to stop serving shark fin soup and convinced the city of Ft. Lauderdale to provide recycling bins in Derek’s neighborhood beach. Next up, WOW! is raising funds to purchase a shark tag for the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami.
Cori McWilliams – Vero Beach, FL.
Growing up near one of the country’s most important sea turtle nesting sites inspired Cori, 9, to protect the oceans at a young age. Along the way she has become a do-it-all sea turtle advocate. As an active volunteer with the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Cori has raised funds, organized beach clean ups and created a presentation to engage elementary school students in sea turtle conservation issues. To date she has shared her message with hundreds of students. Cori has led the STC’s Little Stewards Story Time – an ongoing reading and discussion of conservation issues found in the nature series of Suzanne Tate. Additionally, Cori organized her local Hands Across the Sand event in 2011 along Wabasso Beach at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.
Rory and Maeve McCracken – Baton Rouge, LA.
In the wake of the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Rory (age 14) and Maeve (age 10) started the organization “kidslovethegulf.org” which raised $8,000 through the sale of T-shirts to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife via the Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program. The siblings also published an illustrated ABC’s book, G is for Gulf, with all proceedings helping to donate additional copies to elementary school libraries and classrooms. To date, books have been donated to schools in Louisiana, Florida and Honduras. Rory and Maeve hope to donate the book to schools in all states that border the Gulf and eventually take it nationwide.
Sean Lesniak – Lowell, MA.
A lifelong shark lover, Sean, 8, convinced his state representative, David Nangle, to address the brutal practice of shark finning in Massachusetts. In response to Sean’s request, Rep. Nangle filed a bill on his behalf to increase the fines and penalties on the practice of shark finning and Sean spoke on the bill’s behalf before the state Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee earlier this month. The bill, if passed, would impose fines or imprisonment on a statewide level in addition to already existing federal penalties for violators.
Abby Goldberg – Grayslake, IL.
Inspired by the harmful impact of plastic pollution in our oceans and waterways, Abby, 13, set out to ban plastic bags in her northeast Illinois community. But, faced with a proposed state bill that would forbid towns from banning plastic bags, Abby took her fight to state legislators through her “Don't Let Big Plastic Bully Me” campaign on Change.org. Her petition gathered over 174,000 signatures and influenced the Governor’s veto of the state bag bill in August 2012. Since then, Abby has testified in favor of a new Chicago check-out bag ordinance, which would ban plastic bags at Chicago stores.
Sierra Garcia – Monterey, CA.
Sierra, 17, founded an independent beach cleanup organization called Save the Sea Club when she was nine years old. The club, which holds monthly clean-ups at Del Monte Beach along Monterey Bay, has inspired adults to get involved in Sierra’s work and has collected over 25,000 cigarette butts and hundreds of pounds of trash. Additionally, Sierra has captained her annual coastal cleanup every year since she was ten, mobilizing volunteers, organizing supplies and tallying trash collection totals.