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Community Spotlight: EPA Awards Local Nonprofit Company


Pictured: Ben Scaggs, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program Director

(left) and Beverly Banister, EPA Region 4 APTMD Director

(right) with Nature’s Academy staff: Dana Pounds, Jessika

Blersch and Kristin Abraham

BRADENTON – The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Gulf of Mexico Program awarded Bradenton nonprofit, Nature’s Academy, a Third Place 2013 Gulf Guardian Award in the Youth Environmental Education Category for its Island Adventures Project. On June 26, 2013, Nature’s Academy staff accepted the award at a ceremony following the second day of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance All-Hands Meeting, in Tampa, Florida. 

Since 2009, the Island Adventures Project (IAP) has impacted over 4,700 local fifth grade students. At no cost to public schools, the IAP provides field trips that focus on barrier island ecology and estuary conservation, providing meaningful educational experiences for participants. The project aims to improve overall academic achievement for students, as well as increase science and environmental literacy by connecting coastal communities with their local environment and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. The efficacy of the IAP has been demonstrated in the previous years by an averaged 80% increase in student learning between pre- and post-tests. Through grants and corporate sponsors, Nature’s Academy’s long-term goal is to reach all Pinellas and Manatee County fifth grade students by 2020. 
According to the EPA, The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. First, second and third place awards are given in seven categories: individual, business/industry, youth environmental education, civic/nonprofit organizations, cultural diversity/environmental justice, partnership and bi-national efforts.
The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. This program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development (EPA).
For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call the Gulf of Mexico Program Office at 228-688-3726 or visit http://www.epa.gov/gmpo.
For more information on Nature’s Academy and the Island Adventures Project, please contact, Jessika Blersch, at 941-538-6829jessika@naturesacademy.org or visit http://www.naturesacademy.org. 


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