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2014 Winning Entries

Here are the winning entries from the 2013-2014 YRE USA competition, the inaugural year of the program. We congratulate these students and all who submitted entries! Thank you for dedicating time and energy to investigating environmental issues and sharing the information you uncovered in writing, photo, and video. This is vitally important work! To arrive at solutions to the environmental issues that affect our communities and our planet, the first step is to get high quality information about them out into the world.

The YRE USA Jury chose the following entries as those that best met the criteria for the competition and accomplished the goals of environmental journalism. To see helpful comments and suggestions from the jury, please scroll down to the bottom of this page.  

First place winners in the national competition also proceeded to the international competition. We look forward to hearing the results of the international competition during the first week of June.


AGES 13-15

1st Prize: Road Salt and the Environment by Leah Love - Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, Chicago, IL

2nd Prize: "Water, Water Everywhere" by Britnay Haddox - Ascension Lutheran School, Thousand Oaks, CA

3rd Prize: Bacterial Pollution in Avalon Harbor” by Thomas Cohen, Ascension Lutheran School, Thousand Oaks, CA  


2nd Prize:King of North America” by Robin Ensley, Environmental Charter School, Lawndale, CA  


AGES 16-18


1st Prize: Sorting out the Trash” by Barry Huang, Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, Acton, MA

2nd Prize: “Pink, Pernicious and Polystyrene” by Tan Bui, Haley Grant, Elizabeth Kingsley, Aria Nawab , Isabel Snee and Fabio Vera, Stuart High School, Falls Church, VA

3rd Prize: “A World Debate in Minnesota” by Audrey Dombro Highland Park High School, St. Paul, MN



1st Prize: “Invasive Species in Lake Barcroft” by Kristine Tran, Adam Starr, Gabriella DiPetto, Pranav Panta, Abdelrahman Ibrahim, Jonathan Nguyen, and Theodore Lebryk, Stuart High School, Falls Church, VA  

2nd Prize: “Storm Water Management:  the Erosion of Our Land” by Delores Muhammad, Amanda Szwarc, Charles Williams, Curtis Gill, HuyLnh Trem Ho, and Jennifer Enoch, New Hope Academy, Landover Hills, MD

Honorable Mention: ”Ground Squirrel: Little Animal, Big Problem” by Caroline Braun, Braun Academy,, Fort Wayne, Indiana


1st Prize: The History of Hannah Park” by Bethany Bella, Gahanna Lincoln High School, Columbus, OH 

2nd Prize: How Are We Changing Our Oceans” by – Samantha Mariscal, Yesenia Hernandez, Kaylee Martin, and Karina Gallegoa,  Environmental Charter High School, Lawndale, CA  and “The Road through Success” by Jazmin Sanchez and Jose Ortega,  Environmental Charter High School, Lawndale, CA.  


AGES 19-21

Honorable Mention“Food Insecurity and Community Gardening in Greenville County, South Carolina, United States” by Amanda Richey, Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina.


2nd Prize: Light Pollution” by Emeline Leyens, Washington and Jefferson College, Washington, PA 


Honorable Mention“A Cities Shift to a Greener Landscape” by John Figueiredo, Massasoit Community College, Brockton, MA.



Our talented jurors have a broad range of expertise in writing, photography, video, environmental issues, and environmental journalism. Their constructive criticism provides valuable information about how to craft an effective piece. We encourage participants in future YRE USA competitions to consider their suggestions as you work on your own entries.

All Media TypesWritingPhotos - Video

  • When “Reporting” remember you are a journalist.  Your piece should not read like an essay or a term paper but instead read like a real piece of journalism.   You should interview people and those interviews should result in quotes.  Your piece should get to the point in the first sentence (who, what, where and when), and you should present facts and both sides of the issue so that the reader can come to their own conclusions.  When you add context by including statistics or information from background research, it is essential to credit the source.
  • Disseminating the work in your local community is one of the requirements of the competition. Be sure to explain how you shared the piece with your intended audience and, if applicable, any outcomes that resulted.


  • One of the very best of the writing samples drew the reader in early on with its intriguing title. The writer introduced well with three tightly-written sentences, and the second paragraph efficiently deepened and broadened the subject. The writer also directly engaged the reader at just the right spot – not too early and not too late.
  • Winning essays always make very good use of primary and secondary sources. While describing the issue, the writer engagingly introduces a personal interest, but he does not overdo that aspect. The writer also is very effective in explaining how the subject is not merely a local problem but has global implications. Further, the writer observes that progress is being made. Finally, he spells out a plan for getting the word out.
  • A guide here: don’t use acronyms unless absolutely necessary or unless the specific acronym is already part of conversational language, such as FBI or EPA.
  • Good writers resourcefully use vivid visual elements to invite the reader along on their investigation of an interesting topic.  The use of such visual elements does call for special attention to transitions. When writing, think about how you can better weave together the individual components so that they combine to present into a single piece of narrative fabric.
  • When reporting, a good paper identifies a problem and takes the reader to a solution while introducing some energetic and interesting people along the way. Being able to show a problem and its solution(s), versus lecturing the reader about a problem is real reporting.
  • A word about writing:  Don’t rely heavily on what other people have said. It’s certainly good to cite key sources, but next time out you might reduce somewhat your reliance on other people’s words and use your own narrative with indirect attribution – in essence, take more ownership of the article.
  • Suggestions for making a writing piece more impactful: (1) Use less passive voice and fewer strings of difficult words, which can slow down the reader; (2) Provide more resource attributions, direct quotes from experts, and hard facts (e.g., population numbers) to support your arguments.
  • It is absolutely essential that your piece be written in your own words. If you gather information from other sources, you need to restate it. Copying phrases or whole sentences from other authors without putting their words in quotation marks and crediting them is plagiarism. It will result in disqualification from the competition.


  • When photographing an animal, think about perspective and point of view of the animal and its environment to give it some sense of style that is you. Perhaps make it fun, but educational, informative.
  • Don’t make the viewer hunt for your subject matter. Lighting is key. Shooting at dawn or dusk is the best light. Scope out your subject and lighting to see which time is best to capture what you want to show in your images. Try getting closer to the subject of photo and using less depth of field.
  • From a reporting perspective in photography, you sometimes need to dig a bit deeper and show the problem on a bigger scale. There is documentary style photography and then there is “artistic photography.” Pick the style based on the submission. Photographically speaking you can have the best images, but you need to back it up with the information to complement the images.
  • Be more curious and demonstrate more personal interest. You can be passionate while still being objective. You will get a better story.


  • Sometimes connecting a local story to a bigger regional, national or global issue can make your “local” video stronger.  Make sure to include a variety of interviews – not just one to provide 3rd party perspectives.
  • Sound quality on some of the videos were a bit inconsistent, so next time be sure to check your sound and use microphones to limit your background noise like freeways, wind, etc. 
  • The ending of a video should provide information from you, the reporter or from additional interviews to explain the proposed solutions.  You can also consider pointing out a specific action step for your viewer to get involved in these solutions.  



New YRE International Collaboration Opportunity

Group YRE 

New this year, youth can choose to collaborate and jointly submit an article in the Sustainable Consumption and Production category. Learn more.

Wildlife Photography