On May 19, the 2021 Youth Eco Solutions (YES!) annual Spring Judging took place via Zoom. Spring Judging is when YES! teams get a chance to show off their work by completing a final report and presenting their projects to a panel of judges. After presentations the teams are scored in the following categories: Community Engagement & Impact, Project Planning & Completion, Team Work & Growth, and Ecological Impact. The 2021 judges included Beth Mercer-Taylor (University of MN Institute on the Environment), Jon Morales (Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District), Phil Votruba (MN Pollution Control Agency), Scott Glup (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and Tina Miller (Blattner Energy). The judges were blown away by how much the YES! teams accomplished this school year despite COVID-19 restrictions and changes. One judge stated, “It was fun to see how well the teams collaborated even during a pandemic.”
This year YES! teams completed a variety projects that addressed climate change, energy conservation & renewable energy, habitat, water quality, waste reduction, soil health, local foods, and environmental education.
2021 YES! State Award Winners
1st Place State Champion Award ($500) – Westbrook-Walnut Grove High School
- Westbrook-Walnut Grove High School YES! team did outstanding work in improving water quality, educating peers, and involving their community. One of the most impressive projects was the West End Reclamation project, which is protecting water quality and alleviating seasonal flooding in the parking lot. This project created habitat with native plants that attract pollinators and other wildlife, as well as a community gathering space with a shelter, walking path, fruit trees, and more! The judges also applauded the creativity of this team’s Cars and the Environment Week, which consisted of daily activities that encouraged students and teachers to reduce climate-changing pollution by properly maintaining their car and choosing clean transportation options.
2nd Place Award ($250 each) – Tie between Mankato West High School & Sleepy Eye Schools
- Mankato West High School YES! team wowed the judges with their expertise in climate change, environmental justice, and solar energy. The team’s projects included creating a video for the CERTs Solar for Schools Video Contest, hosting an environmental awareness week to educate students on various topics, and planning a solar installation on their high school!
- Sleepy Eye High School & St. Mary’s Catholic School YES! team impressed judges by their community involvement and student outreach efforts. The team completed a variety of projects including recycling over 1,000 lbs. of holiday lights, creating a separation table for cafeteria waste, conducting an Earth Week Celebration, turning plastic bags into mats for the homeless, and more!
On behalf of the YES! staff, we would like to say congratulations to the award winners and thank you to everyone who participated in the YES! program this year. You are working hard to bring positive long-lasting change for your community and our planet!
“Thank you so much for your participation in the YES! program, and for all of your environmental contributions to your community, your school, and the state of Minnesota.” –Phil Votruba (2021 judge)
Major support for YES! comes from LYFT Career Pathways, Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF), and Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs). Thank you!