CEC Awards 2021 Scholarships

The Citizens Environmental Council (CEC) will award scholarships to three Burlingame High School (BHS) students who will graduate in June: Vanessa Teo (left), Sydney Roncal (right) and Gemma Rice (center).

This is the sixth year that CEC has honored BHS students who have demonstrated a sincere concern for sustainability issues and who show promise to continue addressing environmental problems that threaten our future.

Vanessa Teo is the Founder and President of the Bay Area Youth Climate Action Team (BAYCATS) and she has been active in the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter’s Environmental Stewardship Program, Environmental Legislative Action Team and Bay Advocacy 2030 Programs. Vanessa will attend U.C. Berkeley, where she intends to complete a double major in applied mathematics and environmental policy or environmental economics.

Sydney Roncal plans to major in Environmental Engineering at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. Inspired by her studies in AP Environmental Science, Sydney started her own home garden and then began a volunteer project with the Burlingame Recreation Center to establish a composting program at the community garden.

Gemma Rice has an exceptional record of public service volunteering, including helping with Girl Scout programs since 2008.  Gemma also volunteered at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, where she trained to be a docent, and she attended an Outward Bound Sea Turtle Rescue program in Costa Rica. Gemma is the Founder and President of the Ocean Conservation Club at BHS. She will enroll in the Honors Pre-Nursing program at California State University, Chico.

Mike McCord, Chair of CEC, said, “We were very impressed with these students, and we are confident that they will continue to have a positive impact in their professional and private lives.”

The CEC Scholarship program has been largely underwritten by the Morris S. Smith Foundation, Sterling Franklin, Trustee.

CEC Scholarship Recipients Check In

In 2019 we decided to ask scholarship recipients what they’ve been doing in college, and we’ve been impressed and encouraged by their responses. It’s exciting to see youth whom we thought had promise already beginning to realize their potential and making a difference while still in college.

We granted one of our first scholarships in 2016 to Maarten Thomas-Bosum, who planned to major in physics and work on alternative energy sources. In 2020 he was a senior at Boston College, about to complete a major in Physics and a minor in Math. He was active in the campus Ecopledge and Climate Justice Clubs and was working as a research assistant in a campus physics lab on a new solar energy technology and on a CO2 capture and sequestration project.

Isabella Acenas (BHS 2017) kept us informed during her first two incredibly productive years at New York University. She served as an American delegate to the U.N. Climate Meeting in Abu Dhabi, and she designed a research project in Dubai to study sea level rise in South Pacific island nations. She majored in Environmental Studies and has aspirations to work for the United Nations and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

In 2018 we interviewed Andrew Barrows, who was already an experienced diver and had observed firsthand the decline of coral reefs due to climate change. In early 2020 he was at the University of Hawaii studying marine biology. He had an internship at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, where he was studying methods to raise or farm reef-building coral, which could someday aid in restoring the world’s reefs.

In early 2020 Keala Uchoa (BHS 2018) had completed her first year at Northwestern University. She hoped to become an attorney and work on environmental and social justice issues from a legal and public policy platform. Her coursework so far had included the ocean, atmosphere and climate; environmental law and policy: and Latinx resistance to environmental racism. As president of Fossil Free Northwestern and an undergraduate representative to the Committee on Investment Responsibility, she was pressing the university to divest its fossil fuel investments and reinvest in renewable energy. She also interned during the summer of 2019 at the Westside Justice Center, a Chicago legal aid clinic.

Orla Lynagh-Shannon (BHS 2019) is currently home, successfully taking UCLA classes remotely. Orla’s plan is to major in Environmental Science and Business/Economics. In 2019, Orla took a seminar called “Women and Minorities in Geoscience.” The final project for that class was interviewing Dr. Stephanie Pincetl, a scientist and the director of the UCLA Center for Sustainable Urban Systems, with whom she is hoping to conduct research. In early 2020, Orla was running for a Director of Sustainability position on the On Campus Housing Council, but with the dorms closed the election has been postponed. Over the summer 2020, Orla attended a coffee chat with Google’s Sustainability Team, and as a result, started researching the Master’s Program at the Yale School of the Environment.

CEC Scholarship Honorees

Jeffery Chen (Princeton University)
Verona Teo (UC Berkeley)

Orla Lynagh-Shannon (UCLA)
Carmen Lavilla (CSU Monterrey Bay)

Keala Uchoa (Northwestern University)
Ian Aweeka (UC San Diego)
Andrew Barrows (University of Hawaii)
Madeline Tragoutsis (Santa Clara University)

Isabella Acenas (New York University)
Alexander Vina (Chico State University)

Maarten Thomas-Bosum (Boston College)
Tessa Filipczyk (UC Davis)

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