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Youth Environmentalist Wins $4,500 To Implement Local Solutions To The Monarch Butterfly Decline

Cynthia Zhang, a rising junior at Great Neck South High School, received a $2,000 grant from the True Blue Fellowship, an international Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Program that engages youth in environmental conservation and advocacy through the creative arts, and a $2,500 grant from the EarthEcho International OurEcho Challenge, an innovative competition designed to engage young problem solvers in protecting the diversity of species and ecosystems that make life on Earth possible.

The funding and mentorship Cynthia has won will help to implement her project Monarchs Matter over the next year.

The eastern monarch butterfly population has declined more than 80 percent in the last 30 years due to climate change, pesticides and deforestation. To help protect vulnerable monarchs by restoring their habitats, contributing to monarch monitoring research and promoting environmental awareness and action, Monarchs Matter was formed.

Regionally, the nonprofit organization, Monarchs Matter, funds and guides youth environmentalists to build monarch waystations in their schools and regional chapters of Monarchs Matter. On a global level, Monarchs Matter raises awareness and encourages sustainable practices through social media, educational webinars, and their official website.

Currently, Cynthia hosts the Raise, Tag and Release (RTR) Summer Program in collaboration with ReWild Long Island. The program has helped distribute 100 milkweed plants—the monarch’s main food source—to over 30 summer program students to bring biodiversity into their yards. Youth participants gain hands-on experience raising the monarchs from egg to butterfly to support monarch tagging research.

The RTR Program has a positive impact on the environment and helps the next generation connect with the environment and better understand their role in building a sustainable future.

“Bow Seat’s youth leadership council created the Fellowship Program with the goal of empowering their peers to advocate for our environment and for our collective futures,” said Linda Cabot, founder and president of Bow Seat. “We are thrilled to welcome Cynthia as a 2024 Fellowship grantee. She is among eight other grant recipients from around the world who are committed to and passionate about taking action to protect our blue planet, and we look forward to working with these inspiring young leaders in the new year to help their projects thrive and make a difference in their communities.”

“It’s truly an honor to witness the incredible passion, dedication, and ingenuity of this new generation of young climate advocates and problem solvers,” said EarthEcho International founder, Philippe Cousteau, Jr., “So often, conversations talk about the difference that young people today will make in the future,

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