This was my first trip to Washington D.C. and it was amazing! We stayed at an awesome hotel. It was located right in between two Metro stations (the subway system in D.C.) We took the Metro everywhere. It was so convenient, clean and safe. I really enjoyed meeting all of the other President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) winners. Their projects were very interesting and covered a wide range of environmental issues. I feel honored to be included in such a smart and motivated group of students! The EPA regional coordinators and hosts were so nice. They made us all feel so special.
On the day we arrived, we met with Congressman Roskam who represents our district. It was neat to see his office and meet the people that work with him. We told him all about our project and he was very proud of us. He encouraged us to continue our efforts. Roskam’s staff assistant gave us a tour of the Capitol Building. It is enormous, beautiful and historic.
The next day was the awards ceremony and luncheon. This event was amazing! EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson gave a speech and presented the PEYA plaques to the winners. She seems like a very nice, smart woman. A great role model for us girls! The performers were fantastic and Philippe Cousteau, our luncheon speaker, was really inspiring. In between all the planned activities we had plenty of time to walk around and sightsee. We stopped in several of the Smithsonian museums, saw the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, Washington National Cathedral and more. And we didn’t even get to see it all!
The following day was probably the highlight of our trip. We got to meet President Barack Obama!!! He talked to the winners and said that we are changing the future today. He seemed genuinely excited about the work all of the teams had done. He even said he is eager to follow our progress as we continue our efforts in college and beyond. We took a picture with the President and he shook the hand of every PEYA winner.
This trip and all of the once in a lifetime experiences made me feel very important and want to continue our work. I also learned about the many careers out there in environment protection. This was probably one of the best experiences we could ever have. Thanks EPA for EVERYTHING!!
About the author: Maggie O’Brien is a middle school student from Addison, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Maggie, along with two other middle school students, recently received a Presidents Environmental Youth Award for a recycling project they developed and implemented, Recycle Because You Care.