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The Rockefeller Foundation Selects New York City Students for Inaugural Wangari Maathai Environmental Award

The Rockefeller Foundation announced today the winners of the 2012 Wangari Maathai Award for Civic Participation in Sustainability, an annual $10,000 cash scholarship awarded to two New York City public high school seniors.

The winners—Cecil Brooks, Jr., a student at South Bronx Preparatory School Academy, and Awa Sow, a student at Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School—were selected based on their academic and extracurricular commitment to environmental stewardship within the urban context, as demonstrated through their development and execution of sustainability-themed projects.

Inaugurated by The Rockefeller Foundation, the Bette Midler Family Trust, and MillionTreesNYC, the Wangari Maathai Award was established in honor of Dr. Wangari Maathai. Dr. Maathai was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, a visionary environmentalist, and founder of the Green Belt Movement – a tree-planting campaign to promote sustainable development, woman’s empowerment, and democracy in Kenya.

“Dr. Wangari Maathai is an inspiration for those who care about social and ecological resilience and equity, and seek to promote the spirit of civic engagement within their communities,” said Dr. Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “We are proud to honor her legacy by awarding the inaugural Wanagari Maathai Award for Civic Participation and Sustainability.”

Cecil Brooks, Jr. is a member of the Youth Leadership Council for the Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF), a comprehensive, nonprofit supplemental education and youth development organization that helps motivated students develop the intellectual curiosity, academic ability, social values, and personal resiliency they need to ensure success in school, career, and life. HEAF identifies students in middle school and supports them until they have successfully graduated from four-year colleges through a variety of after-school, Saturday, and summer educational and youth development programs.  Mr. Brooks and HEAF’s Youth Leadership Council conducted a year-long project in Harlem focused on a recycling campaign and the adoption of community trees.  The project included weekly verbal presentations about their efforts to other students their own age.  Mr. Brooks has been accepted to Colby College, where he plans to study issues related to public policy.

Awa Sow, through her participation in the Student Climate and Conservation Congress in Washington, D.C., began a Green Club to coordinate her school’s sustainability efforts.  Ms. Sow’s efforts have resulted not only in raised awareness about sustainability but reduced energy consumption, tree-planting, and her school’s participation in cleaning the Bronx River and Bronx Park.  Her efforts have included a video in which many different stakeholders throughout her school—from students to teachers to facilities personnel—articulate the importance of green practices from a variety of viewpoints.  Ms. Sow designed the Green Club to continue its activities after she has left high school.  Upon completion of college, Ms. Sow plans to return to her native Senegal to promote the use of solar panels to allow for longer school days and the use of diverse technologies for students and faculty.

The selection jury consisted of members of The Rockefeller Foundation, the New York Restoration Project, the Fund for Public Schools, the Greenbelt Movement, and MillionTreesNYC.

The awards will be handed out at the Municipal Art Society’s Annual Meeting February 26, 2013.

The Wangari Maathai Award for Civic Participation and Sustainability is administered by the Municipal Art Society of New York.  For more information, see The Rockefeller Foundation website at


The Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation aims to achieve equitable growth by expanding opportunity for more people in more places worldwide, and to build resilience by helping them prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from acute shocks and chronic stresses. Throughout its 100 year history, the Rockefeller Foundation has enhanced the impact of innovative thinkers and actors working to change the world by providing the resources, networks, convening power, and technologies to move them from idea to impact. In today’s dynamic and interconnected world, The Rockefeller Foundation has a unique ability to address the emerging challenges facing humankind through innovation, intervention and influence in order to shape agendas and inform decision making.  For more information, please visit

Municipal Arts Society
The Municipal Art Society of New York has led New York City’s livability movement since 1893. MAS’s mission is to advocate for public policies, private sector practices, individual agency and community engagement for a resilient built environment that encourages our city’s economic vitality, cultural vibrancy, environmental sustainability and social diversity. For more information visit

Media Inquiries:
Erissa Scalera, The Rockefeller Foundation, (212) 852-8430 or (917) 207-9595,