Asha Children AWAKE A Community.

Four children in Arizona volunteer with Asha and are recognized  by the EPA for their community work. Learn more about the details on


2006 President’s Environmental Youth Awards

The PEYA program was established by the White House in 1971 and has been administered by EPA since that time. Up to 10 winning projects are selected each year from EPA’s 10 regional offices. Young people from around the country and U.S. territories are invited annually to participate in the PEYA program, which is aimed at encouraging individuals, school classes, summer camps, youth organizations and public interest groups to promote environmental awareness and encourage positive community involvement.

The 2006 PEYA recipients are described below.

EPA Region 9

Arizona Water Activists Karing for the Environment (AWAKE)
Smitha Ramakrishna, Pooja Ramesh, Amol Lingnurkar, and Akash Khare
Chandler, Arizona



Three years ago in Arizona, four students were inspired to raise money for underprivileged children in India. The driving force for this project began when one of the students visited India and saw children living in slums who had no drinking water. The students – Smitha Ramakrishna, Pooja Ramesh, Amol Lingnurkar, and Akash Khare – formed their own Asha Kid’s Chapter in Arizona in conjunction with Asha for Education, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children in India. With Mahatma Gandhi as their role model, they adapted the famous motto, “Think Globally, Act Locally” into “Think and Act Locally and Globally.” In honor of Gandhi, the students organized three walk-a-thons, which together raised $5,400. This money was donated to three projects in India for promoting basic education for underprivileged children and buying and building reverse osmosis systems for schools and neighborhoods. These systems collect and purify rainwater; as a result, more than 3,000 children have been given clean, potable water to drink and use.

The Save the Peaks Coalition is an organization formed by 14 Native American tribes who are against the creation of machine-made snow, made from recycled sewage water, on the San Francisco Peaks, a mountain range considered sacred by the native people. Because of Arizona’s dry climate, ski resorts in Flagstaff use this reclaimed water to make snow. To support the coalition, the students took four water samples for testing from more than 30 lakes and ponds in the range and its drainage area. They repeated this sampling three times over a 1-year period. Their data indicated that the reclaimed water contained high levels of many contaminants, especially coliform. The students wrote letters to the governor and other state and local officials to publicize their findings. They also amassed some 300 signatures on a petition against this machine-made snow. The issue is now the subject of an ongoing court case. And, as reclaimed water in Arizona is used to irrigate many lawns in parks, the students feel that periodic testing of this kind of water is of immense value to the public.

AWAKE was able to spread the message of water conservation, preservation, and restoration to various communities by participating in many environmental events and festivals. The students used many resources, including the EPA’s Kids Club Web site, to make word and board games, crossword puzzles, mazes, and hands-on activities about water, so people of all ages could have a fun and memorable learning experience. They also created special activities such as the “AWAKE Challenge” and the Eco-Hero game. The “AWAKE Challenge” models real-life situations that occur between people working in various fields and how they affect today’s main water supply. The goal of the Eco-Hero game is educating people through brainstorming sessions and discussion of the causes and effect of humans on the environment.

The students of AWAKE believe that, by increasing the public’s awareness about water conservation and pollution, adults and children will start using water responsibly and make lifestyle changes to help benefit themselves and the environment. They try to follow this quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see.”