Shirley Nichols is a tireless advocate for the parks, waterways, and greenspaces in her South River Gardens community. Near Atlanta’s airport, South River Gardens is a largely residential community with vast tracts of forested land surrounded by industrial land uses.
Shirley holds several leadership roles in her community, including her Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU-Z) and the South River Gardens Neighborhood Association. Since the 1970s, she has been deeply committed, organized, and fearless in her advocacy, while also passing her knowledge down to the younger generation.
In late 2020, due in large part to Shirley’s advocacy efforts, the City of Atlanta acquired 216 acres of forested land in her neighborhood. Called the Lake Charlotte Forest Preserve, the property was owned by a waste management company and at risk of becoming a landfill or being sold for industrial use. She led the fight to preserve the area, and thanks to Ms. Nichols, Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve is now one of Atlanta’s largest public parks and a model for urban forest preservation.
For Madhvi, conservation is her “breath and mantra.” She devotes her summer breaks, weekends, and after-school time to advocating for the conservation of our ecosystems. Her leadership, passion and determination have led to many large-scale policy changes.
At the age of 6, she founded the 501(c)(3) non-profit Madhvi4EcoEthics. She works diligently to protect ecosystems from plastic pollution and is tireless in her advocacy on behalf of conservation. For example, she worked with the state government to declare April as Plastic and Styrofoam Pollution Awareness Month in Colorado. And through letter writing, signature gathering and meetings with policymakers, she led her school district, Jeffco Public Schools, to switch from non-biodegradable Styrofoam trays to compostable trays. The move impacted 155 schools serving 86,000 students and to date has kept 20 million Styrofoam containers from the landfill.
Youth Environmental Alliance
Since 2005, Youth Environmental Alliance (YEA) has provided interactive programs that focus on educational sciences, conservation and environmental stewardship. These fun and engaging programs involve youth, companies and the community in preserving and protecting unique ecosystems. YEA offers programs for persons of all ages and abilities.
YEA works passionately to reduce carbon/energy, water and waste in their community through 2 major avenues. First, they have educated up to 19,000 people annually using over 30 different hands-on, exciting environmental classes and activities that empower children and adults with the knowledge and tools needed to make changes to decrease their carbon footprint, conserve water, limit waste and reduce their impacts on the environment. Second, they bring the community together to improve the environment and their lives by engaging them in meaningful and impactful eco-action.
YEA’s community-based dune restoration efforts led to the creation of resource management plans in 6 coastal municipalities, a new State Bill to protect coastlines and new requirements to install vegetated dunes. Learn more at YouthEnvironmentalAlliance.com.