WILLIAMSTOWN -- Before coming to Williams College in August, Claudia Corona, of Los Angeles, took it upon herself to educate students at her high school about the importance of co-existing with the environment.
Her efforts didn't go unnoticed, and during the spring of her senior year at the California Academy for Liberal Studies Early College High School in Los Angeles, she was nominated for an award given by the Sierra Club's Building Bridges to the Outdoors program and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE).
On Oct. 10, Corona received the second annual Green Youth Leader award at the 2009 NAAEE's annual Conference in Portland, Ore.
"I was very thrilled. I wasn't expecting it. I just did the work because honestly I wanted to maintain the environment as much as possible," Corona, 18, said Monday.
Jacqueline Ostfeld, national youth representative for the Building Bridges to the Outdoors program, said Monday Corona was chosen for the award because she went "above and beyond what the average high schooler does during the school year."
Corona was president of her school's environmental club -- the Mean Green Team, and during her time at its helm, she led the group in over 500 hours of community service focused on the environment, helped expand the group's numbers, launch a recycling program at the school and organize environmental outings for students, she said.
According to the NAAEE's Web site, the Green Youth
This was the second year the award was given, and Ostfeld hopes it will continue as an annual honor.
Natalie Lucas, of Flagstaff, Ariz., and a student at Sinagua High School, received the award in 2008.
In addition to the award, Corona received a $1,000 gift certificate toward a Sierra Club outing. She said she asked the money be given to the Mean Green Team to put toward an outing in order for students to have a chance to see what is out there.
Ostfeld said Corona's request will be granted.
Growing up in an urban area, Corona said she became interested in the environment and conservation after going on a trip with the Mean Green Team to Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve near Yosemite National Park.
"We went there, and I learned how close the lake was to becoming dry because Los Angeles was tapping into the five streams that fed it. That was what filled me with the spirit to keep it that way so other generations could see it," she said.
She said her interest and awareness of the environment did play a role in her decision to attend Williams College.
"I wanted to see how it is people can live without needing to completely demolish all the trees," she said
Corona hopes to become a member of the college's environmental club and major in geoscience with a concentration in environmental studies.