WCLT Scholarships 2024

WCLT Scholarships 2024 Awarded

The Westborough Community Land Trust (WCLT) congratulates the winners of three $1000.00 scholarships and two honorable mentions awarded to graduating Westborough High School (WHS) seniors! These awards were made by WCLT on the basis of student essays written for our annual Earth Day Essay Contest.

Michelle Hung received the WCLT scholarship for describing a more sustainable future for our planet and for Westborough. Her leadership in organizing events and leading a group of young students to share their opinions on climate issues shows her care and concern for our planet. Michelle’s essay explained the “...importance of collaboration, effective communication, the impact of grassroots efforts, and the various ways we can drive sustainable change together.” Very impactful words. Michelle plans to attend Tufts University with a double-major in Environmental Studies and International Relations.

Katelyn McCarthy received the WCLT scholarship for describing her experience in first grade at Bowman Conservation. Her love of nature guided her to work with young girls on hiking excursions that included safety training and getting girls out on local trails. Katelyn’s leadership in developing a program to teach young girls about “...the joys of outdoor activities” which inspired her Girl Scout Gold Award is truly a rewarding endeavor, bringing more young people to nature and off screens. This is a wonderful way that Katelyn gave back to the community. Katelyn’s essay ended with the Girl Scout Law, stating a “...promise that we will try our best to make the world a better place." Katelyn’s essay exemplefied this sentiment. Katelyn plans on attending either Umass Amherst or Boston University to double major in psychology and education.

Elizabeth Fallon received the WCLT scholarship for her essay describing her experience collecting 85 pounds of trash while in the fourth grade. This inspired Elizabeth’s love of helping the environment and hiking along the Gilmore Pond Trail that is part of the Westborough Charm Bracelet. Elizabeth even supported others as they earned their Eagle Scout award by removing invasive species at Gilmore Pond and making the trail accessible to all. A quote from Elizabeth’s essay showing a commitment to “...live sustainably as an adult and leave each place I visit and work cleaner than when I first visited” is an inspiration for us all. Elizabeth plans to become a nurse.

Myeisha Patnaik received an honorable mention for her essay describing the time spent with her grandfather at Lake Chauncy. Myeisha’s love of her grandfather and nature was evident in the beautiful essay. Myeisha plans on attending Wesleyan University and majoring in Political Science on a pre-law track.

Kaylie Strong received an honorable mention for her essay describing her role in helping to keep parks like Veteran’s Park clean. Kaylie’s work with WHS's Engineering Club is impressive and the committee loved Kaylie’s passion when it comes to keeping our water systems clean and safe. Kaylie plans on attending the University of Maine for Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Aerospace Engineering.

Since 2006, WCLT has awarded 33 scholarships to graduating seniors in Westborough and 33 honorable mentions. (See the WCLT Scholarship Hall of Fame.) With our Earth Day essay contest and scholarship program, WCLT aims to inspire young people to become keen observers of our natural spaces, as well as reflective thinkers regarding the impact of human activity on our environment.

Michelle Hung’s Earth Day essay 2024:

Michelle Hung

My sixth-grade teachers, Marie Hopkinson and Chris Rogers, inspired me to pursue environmental studies as a career. During my last year at Mill Pond, we embarked on a two-month-long project on biodiversity, where each of us was tasked with researching an endangered animal and its native habitat. I was assigned the Amur Tiger, the factors impacting its population, and the effects of climate change in Russia.

What I found unique was that my teachers turned a dense and important issue into something students would be eager to work on in class every day and proud to present at the end of the year. They seamlessly wove biodiversity topics into our everyday lessons, providing the necessary tools to navigate our research. English class became a focus for credible sources, while science lessons uncovered the root causes of species endangerment. Math classes taught us to graph our nation’s temperature trends over time, while social studies engaged us in riveting roundtable discussions with peers representing diverse nations.

Months of meticulous preparation ended in a memorable showcase of our hard work. We transformed the school cafeterias into vibrant galleries, proudly presenting our findings to our families, who marveled at our accomplishments. Following our presentation, we held a biodiversity forum similar to the United Nations for the rest of our school. The atmosphere buzzed with curiosity and engagement as fourth and fifth graders came to our classrooms, eager to learn about our project and the critical issue it addressed.

This project created by Mrs. Hopkinson and Mr. Rogers has genuinely opened my eyes to see the small actions humans take daily that contribute to the extinction of many species. Though not part of the official curriculum, their introduction to this crucial concept of biodiversity has stayed with me since then.

As I entered high school, I sought opportunities in my community to help our environment. In 10th grade, I joined Sustainable Westborough, a town committee fostering environmental responsibility and reducing carbon emissions. I later became the associate member of the committee, reporting on our schools’ environmental initiatives and working with our superintendent, Mrs. Bock, to introduce district-wide composting. This experience exposed me to Massachusetts’ climate legislation, initiatives like the Green Communities Grant, and newly launched programs like Climate Leader Communities.

My primary focus on Sustainable Westborough involved starting the first-ever Westborough Environmental Action Fair. Launched in 2022, this event aimed to disseminate information about the effects of energy usage and solutions to climate concerns for residents in and around Westborough. The fair showcased diverse vendors, including utility companies like National Grid and innovative architects from HMFH, who constructed New England’s first net-positive energy public school in Westborough. We featured speakers, such as Emmy Award-winning producer Melanie Wallace and Dr. Robert Gegear from UMass Dartmouth, to provide insight into their work related to the environmental field. We also invited student exhibitors from elementary schools to present their climate research to educate our attendees. My involvement included holding a presentation on students’ perspectives on climate change, managing a panel of elementary school students eager to share their opinions on climate issues, overseeing event volunteers, and managing high school club participation. With over 400 attendees this past March, the event has become integral to Sustainable Westborough and our pursuit of educating our community about this critical issue.

Seeing impacts worldwide and the younger generation at the fair eager and worried about their future, I know we must take every action to mitigate the effects of climate change. I aim to use my college education and experiences to create and implement initiatives, legislation, and policies that better our social system and its approach to developing a more sustainable future. After college, I dream of working in the United Nations, collaborating with international leaders to tackle climate challenges within their respective nations and across varied contexts. Effecting meaningful change on a global scale necessitates collective effort from every corner of the world.

Joining Sustainable Westborough broadened my knowledge across various environmental domains, spanning legislation, zoning bylaws, municipal decarbonization, and even event planning. This experience highlighted the importance of collaboration, effective communication, the impact of grassroots efforts, and the various ways we can drive sustainable change together.

Katelyn McCarthy’s Earth Day essay 2024:

Katelyn McCarthy

Some of my most treasured childhood memories are of the many summers I spent in Nature Adventure Camp at the Bowman Conservation Area. I adored chasing frogs in puddles, wading in the water, and exploring the woods that seemed so large and wild to me. Although I now recognize that those seemingly endless woods actually constitute a relatively small area in town, I see even more that it’s a very valuable place for children and adults alike in Westborough. My love of nature, which began at Bowman Conservation area as a first grader, inspired me to pursue outdoor activities further. Throughout elementary and middle school, I loved going on hikes with my Girl Scout Troop, which I have been a part of for eleven years. In high school, I got involved in the outdoor activity club Venture Crew 100, of which I have been an officer for the past two years. My first trip with Venture Crew was an overnight in the White Mountains in the dead of winter. I vividly remember huddling in a bunk house buried under snow with my friends, my stiff fingers desperately clutching hand warmers, the smoke from the wood stove stinging my eyes, whispering stories as our headlamps faded. I now remember that trip as one of the best experiences of my life. I can’t easily recall the sensations of the intense cold, the raw blisters on my heels, or the agony of the steep hike on snowshoes with heavy packs. Instead I remember laughing over cards, discussing obscure historical events, shaking snow off tree branches and onto each other, and cooking up spicy, tongue-scorching pasta that tasted exactly like it had been made by high schoolers who had thrown all the available spices into a pot with marinara sauce and called it a groundbreaking new seasoning. I remember slipping outside the cabin at night to wash dishes, breathing out puffs of icy breath under the stars, and feeling for a brief second that I was alone in the still world. Out in the wilderness, with no lights to obscure the stars, and nothing interrupting the snowy landscape but rough pine trees and the rocky cliffs in the distance, I felt a profound sense of relief that parts of the word still looked like this. Up in the cold mountain air, all of my worries had never felt farther away. This revelation, gained on this and other backpacking trips, inspired my Girl Scout Gold Award project. For my project, I developed a program to teach young girls about the joys of outdoor activities. I also created opportunities to get girls out hiking on local trails and nearby mountains, with guidance and safety training.

I know the pressure and anxiety young girls feel in this generation in our society, much of it due to the modern age of social media: a recent study from the CDC revealed that 57 percent of adolescent girls are depressed, a statistic that I find alarming and heartbreaking. As someone who has spent the happiest moments of my life hiking, I aim to provide young girls with a reliable source of joy and connection in their lives. I hope that they, like me, fall in love with New England’s gnarled roots, rain slick rocks, and surprisingly edible pine trees. I also hope that they learn to care for and preserve the natural environment around them. I care deeply about declining teen mental health and the accelerating dangers of climate change, both issues I plan on making central to my eventual career. By bringing more youth into the outdoors and away from the constant presence of screens and social media, I feel I can help address both crises. I have learned many valuable skills through these experiences in the outdoors, including leadership and confidence, and I was thrilled to be able to give back to my community in a meaningful way.

Coming full circle, I have now taken several groups of girls hiking through Bowman Conservation Area in town, in the hopes that they are inspired by nature the same way I was in the same place over a decade ago. The Girl Scout law, the declaration I have known by heart for more than a decade, concludes with the promise that we will try our best to make the world a better place. I truly embrace this sentiment, and I am doing my best to live up to it.

Elizabeth Fallon’s Earth Day essay 2024:

Elizabeth Fallon

Back when I was in 4th grade, My good friend and I went out around our neighborhood to collect trash. We scoured the roads and surrounding woods all morning with our trash bags and collected 85 pounds of garbage just in my neighborhood. I remember my mom bringing her bathroom scale to the driveway to weigh it and exclaiming how it weighed much more than we did! I sent a letter to President Obama about the work that we had done. I explained to him that I loved helping the environment and keeping it safe and even sent a photo of my friend and I holding our bags of trash. I was so excited months later to receive a letter back from him saying how he was inspired by young kids like me who wanted to make the environment a better place. I always felt honored that I got a letter back so I continued to help whenever I could. Near my home there is a trail that is part of the Westborough Charm Bracelet called the Gilmore Pond Trail. I always loved this area and as a young child I remember taking family hikes there. During the lockdown of Covid my brother and I would walk or bike there to meet up with friends we had not seen in a long time. Of course we had to convince our parents that we would social distance so they would let us go! When I learned someone I knew was completing their Eagle Scout Project there I decided to go and help them with the work. We created a better environment and prettier view by removing invasive plants. Another time I helped at the same pond area by assisting in the making of an all persons trail that could be accessible for handicapped people, elderly, or families with strollers. These projects gave me lots of inspiration to continue helping the environment as I saw the good being done in my own “backyard.” Additionally my mom has always encouraged myself and my family to volunteer for Earth Day. We select an area close to our home and sign up to pick up trash around or near the Charm Bracelet Trail if possible. I remember that during Covid there was a lot more trash around than previous years because people were spending more time outside. My family and I spent all day at the site where we were assigned so we could get every little bit of trash out of the area. This day stood out because I realized a different perspective. Here our society was in the pandemic, so concerned with keeping our human bodies healthy, but treating Mother Earth not with the same respect. It made me a little sad but also determined to do more to help and be a better citizen of the Earth.

To this day I continue to help the environment in a positive way. I want to be a nurse, and I think that it is important that everyone has a clean and healthy environment to live in. I hope that I can be considered as a candidate for your scholarship because I really am invested in the greater good of the environment. By doing these tasks and more I have been able to learn to respect the world we live in. In the future I will continue to do work to help the environment in a positive way. As I have learned through volunteering, doing good always feels good. My ultimate goal is to be a travel nurse and visit many spots of this great country of ours. I hope to continue to volunteer and find ways to live sustainably as an adult and leave each place I visit and work cleaner than when I first visited! Regardless of what path I lead in my career or life, my ultimate goal for the future is to do everything I can to help the environment and provide everybody with a safe Earth. I am proud to say my journey started right here in Westborough at the Charm Bracelet Trail.

Westborough Community Land Trust, PO Box 838, Westborough , MA 01581
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