2015 Maathai Award for Civic Participation in Sustainability

The Maathai Award for Civic Participation in Sustainability, inaugurated by The Rockefeller Foundation, The Bette Midler Family Trust, and MillionTreesNYC, is an annual $10,000 cash award granted to two New York City public high school seniors. The award was established in honor of Dr. Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (2004), a visionary environmentalist, and founder of the Green Belt Movement, a tree-planting campaign to promote sustainable development, woman's empowerment, and democracy in Kenya.

To be eligible applicants must:

  • Be a NYC student expecting to graduate at the end of the 2015-2016 school year
  • Demonstrate commitment to and activity in community engagement
  • Demonstrate commitment to and activity in sustainability projects
  • Provide evidence of having completed a sustainability project in high school that shows evidence of leadership, commitment to sustainability, mobilization of others

Application requirements:

  • Complete online application
  • Submit two references
  • Submit supplementary materials as necessary
  • Submit Parental Authorization to apply
  • Submit all application materials by deadline (5 p.m. EST January 20th, 2016)


If you have any questions, please email maathai@mas.org.

Past Award Winners

  • Cecil Brooks, Jr. for "YLC Goes Green!", a three-part program that encompassed a recycling campaign, an education initiative and tree adoptions through MillionTreesNYC. (2012)
  • Awa Sow for "MC Green Club", a student group aiming to raise awareness among students to participate in environmental improvements. (2012)
  • Alexandra Gumas for "Bottle Cap Competition", which collects previously non-recyclable bottle caps to be re-used. (2013)
  • Jaylen Gregory for "iSchool Biodiversity Action Plan Proposal", which focused on increasing biodiversity surrounding his school. (2013)
  • Nicolle Martinez for “Rescued from the Brink: Restoration of Eelgrass Zostera Marina, to the Upper New York Bay”, which involved the planting and monitoring of a declining sub-aquatic vegetation (2014)
  • Eric Wong for “Rooftop Garden Revitalization”, which featured the installation of a school rooftop garden used for composting, biology classes, and environmental science classes (2014)
  • Maya Bernstein-Schalet for “The New York 2 X Coalition”, a youth-led, consensus-based organization designed to create a network of young people who are interested in organizing and mobilizing across New York City, dedicated to creating sustainable solutions to environmental problems in New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Albuquerque. (2015)
  • Sabastian Rahman for “Dune Restoration Project & Project Underway”, a dune restoration initiative and a transportation connectivity initiative, aiming at improving transportation connectivity on the Rockaway Peninsula after Hurricane Sandy, while simultaneously dealing with environmental problems. (2015)

Learn About Dr. Maathai and The Green Belt Movement

For over 30 years, Dr. Wangari Maathai has inspired the work of The Green Belt Movement, which has had a profound impact on the populations and ecology of Kenya. Get a taste for Dr. Maathai's work by viewing the exerpt below from the documentary "Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai" by Lisa Merton and Alan Dater.