Student Leader Is Showing Us the Way to Save the Bay
Educating and inspiring the next generation of Chesapeake Bay champions has long been central to CBF's work to save the Bay. That's because CBF knows that even as policies and programs are put into place that will ensure that the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is fully realized, our progress will not be sustained unless future generations understand the value of a healthy Chesapeake Bay and clean rivers and streams. Students like16-year-old James Hemphill already have that understanding and have been taking action for clean water for years.
A sophomore at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, James has been a clean-water activist since the 6th grade, when he visited CBF's Fox Island Environmental Education Center. While he acknowledges a lifelong interest in being on and around the water, James points to that first experience with CBF as truly inspiring him to get involved in solving some of the Bay's problems. Being on a section of the Bay that is still so pristine motivated him to work to improve water quality in his own backyard. "It was a very powerful experience," James recalls. "If someone doesn't stand up to take responsibility for protecting our waterways, the situation will only get worse."
Not long after that first CBF field experience, James started a stream clean-up and monitoring program along Thalia Creek near his school. He later founded Project Green Teens, a group of concerned students in and around Virginia Beach who perform audits of area schools and parks to identify and address threats to water quality. He has participated in several CBF education programs since then, each experience further inspiring him to keep doing his part.
In recognition of all he has done to protect and restore water quality in his own community, and the ways in which he inspires others, CBF presented James with the 2013 Student Leadership Award on June 1, during Clean the Bay Day activities at First Landing State Park.
"James is an exceptional community leader with a true passion for clean water and environmental stewardship," said Don Baugh, CBF's Vice President for Education. "CBF has known and worked with him for many years, and I am tremendously pleased to recognize his excellent leadership and community conservation work by presenting him with our 2013 Student Leadership Award."
Nearly five years after that first trip to Fox Island, James says he's just getting started. His latest project? Working with Lynnhaven River NOW and about 20 other volunteers to install "oyster castles"—stackable concrete structures with oyster shells inside—to create an oyster reef along the Lynnhaven River shoreline.
After finishing high school, James intends to study environmental science and public policy, taking his passion and leadership to professional levels.