Disney Recognizes Youth from Georgia, New Mexico for Conservation Efforts

National Wildlife Federation’s Kids and Nature Work Earns Top Honors

04-13-2012 // Megan Blevins

Four youth from Georgia and New Mexico were selected by the National Wildlife Federation as Youth Ambassadors to participate in Disney’s Kids and Nature Celebration at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

From April 12-14, 2012, Reena Whalawitsa and Daveishena Redhouse of Shiprock, New Mexico, and Brandon Dykes of Atlanta and Malcolm Barnard of John’s Creek, Georgia will participate in the 3-day celebration hosted by Disney.  The Celebration will recognize and reward over one hundred youth and five organizations for their work to protect the planet and conserve nature.

Brandon, Malcolm, Reena and Daveishena and other youth recognized by Disney, will participate in the first-ever Disney Friends of Change Youth Summit, the World Premier of Disneynature’s Chimpanzee with Dr. Jane Goodall, and will receive awards and recognition at the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund Awards Ceremony.

The youth chosen to receive the Disney Kids and Nature Champions Award represent a committed group of young people who care about protecting the natural world,” said Larry Schweiger, who will speak at the Celebration in Orlando. “Each of them is an inspiration as they demonstrate how conservation stewardship is alive and well in our nation’s future generations.”

Renee Whalawitsa

Reena Whalawitsa of Shiprock, New Mexico

Reena, who currently attends Nizhoni Elementary School, has participated in all projects coordinated through NWF’s Tribal Schoolyard Habitats and environmental education activities.

Each year, Reena and her fellow students enter the “We Can Change the World Challenge” with a variety of environmental projects, including investigating lava rock and comparing the number of olivine crystals found in regional lava, and the number of olivine crystals found in lava from Hawaii. Reena also learns from local mentors about native plants and their Navajo names and uses, and on alternate years, the students use this knowledge to study the land and the past, and the water and the future.


Brandon Dykes

Brandon Dykes of Atlanta

Brandon, currently a senior at Frederick Douglass High School, is serving in his second year as president of his school’s Earth Tomorrow Club, an organization affiliated with the National Wildlife Federation to introduce teens to local ecosystem and environmental issues, immerse them in the outdoors, expose them to environmental careers, and teach them leadership skills that they can use to develop student-led solutions to environmental challenges in their schools or boarder community.

During his tenure as President of the Frederick Douglass Earth Tomorrow Club, Brandon has led the charge to increase the number of students participating in the clubs and increase the club’s school and community outreach initiatives, including implementing environmental education campaigns in the school and surrounding community to promote the need for water conservation.


Daveishena Redhouse

Daveishena Redhouse of Shiprock, New Mexico

Daveishena, who currently attends Mesa Elementary School, has dedicated her time to helping her community and school through extensive gardening, animal and tree planting projects, and littering prevention programs.

In Girl Scouts, Daveishena has worked on projects to help raise funds to go on trips to visit nature, and at her school, her class is working on a recycling project and goes on teacher-supervised road clean-ups with her classmates. In 4H, she and fellow members save the tabs on soda cans and give them to McDonald’s to be recycled to help their charity.  And for Earth Day 2011, Daveishena helped plant 12 trees at Mesa Elementary School.


Malcolm Barnard

Malcolm Barnard of Johns Creek, Georgia

Malcolm, currently a tenth-grader at Johns Creek High School, has given back to the community and wildlife since a young age, including oyster restoration projects, sea turtle monitoring, and serving as a youth leader with nature centers. For the past two years, Malcolm has been working on his largest project—making Johns Creek a NWF certified Community Wildlife Habitat and is only 60 backyards away from his goal.  

Malcolm started the project in Middle school where he worked to build a team of NWF community members to work with him to engage homeowners, business, schools, park, and other organizations in the community to create wildlife habitat. The team that Malcolm has been working with consists of adults as well as other youth who work together to advance how their community can improve wildlife habitats, both on land and on the shoreline.

The National Wildlife Federation, along with the Children and Nature Network, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, The Nature Conservancy, and Youth Service America will also be honored at the Celebration by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.  Each of the organizations will be awarded $100,000 to continue their efforts to connect kids to nature.

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