Meet the Winners of Our Second Climate Change Scholarship

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By Kate Sitarz
Last updated on August 10, 2023

Congratulations to the winners of Shorelight’s annual Climate Change Scholarship! Learn more about the competition and how you can get involved next year.

Scenery shot of sunlight breaking through a forest at dawn

The second annual Climate Change Scholarship competition, sponsored by U.S. News Global Education in collaboration with Shorelight, had 30 participating international students representing eight countries: China, Colombia, India, Peru, South Korea, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

The Climate Change Scholarship originated when Carmen Atkinson, Shorelight’s global director for partnerships development, was at home in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. “For the first time, I was not traveling [constantly] and I had more time to think,” she explains. 

She began digging into what motivates Gen-Z, and noticed that, yes, this generation wants to study and get a good job, but they also want to make an impact with their work.

“They are very, very aware of the problems of the world, with climate change being number one,” she says.

Atkinson began brainstorming ways to engage students on this issue and, soon enough, began working with Scott Helfgott, Shorelight’s vice president of academic affairs, as well as the academic team, on bringing the idea to life. 

In 2020, the competition was part of American Collegiate Live’s Global Citizenship course. In 2021, the competition was opened to all first-year students from any Shorelight university and delivered in a new format by Rachel Yee Quill, Shorelight’s senior manager for academic affairs. Students represented Auburn University, Florida International University, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Massachusetts Boston, and University of the Pacific.

First, students submitted an application and a 300- to 500-word essay on why they wanted to participate. Quill then held a series of three workshops for students. The first, an introduction to the competition, also included a discussion about climate change, with students sharing issues important to them.

Between the first and second workshops, students chose their topics and developed an outline for their presentations. “We want students to think about it as something they can share with their friends, not only for academic audiences,” Quill says.  

The second workshop allowed students to meet in small groups. “Students really liked the opportunity to meet other students, have other people listen to their ideas, give feedback, and help shape their presentations,” recalls Quill. 

For the final workshop, the students prepared a slide and gave a summary of their 10-minute video, which needed to present an analysis of the issue using credible sources and offer a viable action plan. 

“What is so impressive about the students is the level of research and analysis they did,” Quill shares. “Students are bringing [their] passion and doing really remarkable work around the problems that people are facing right now.” 

“I learned something new during every single [presentation],” she adds. “That is what is so powerful. They found ways to express ideas in a way that the general public can understand and have a conversation around.”

Climate Change Scholarship Winners

Students covered a range of topics, including climate change’s impact on coral reefs, possible engineering solutions to climate change, and how balancing an individual mindset with a more communal one can help combat climate change. 

“It is unbelievable what they came up with,” stresses Atkinson. “All the presentations had something special, something that makes you reflect.”

The winners were:

Valeria: Deforestation in Peru’s Tropical Forest


Starting her presentation by asking classmates where various products, like fruit and paper, come from, Valeria explains that Peru is losing 120,000 hectares each year. This level of deforestation impacts the level of carbon dioxide in the air, making weather events more devastating. 

Valeria has three calls to action:

  1. Follow Deforestation 101 on Instagram

  2. Sign the petition

  3. Recycle and spread awareness

Victoria: Livestock Farming (Cattle Agriculture)

Livestock emissions account for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cattle account for two-thirds of that. In Victoria’s presentation, she explains how, with the increased demand for meat, agriculture also contributes to other major climate change issues, including deforestation.

Victoria’s research shows replacing just 1% of cows’ diets with red seaweed can reduce methane emissions by 60%. Rotating herds can help land regenerate, and sending waste to proper treatment facilities ensures less contamination of land and waterways. Additionally, using earthworms to digest manure can help add nutrients back to soil. Plus, we can all reduce our meat consumption.

Isabella: Local Consumption and Production of Food

Transportation accounted for 29% of US greenhouse emissions in 2019, with agriculture at 10%. As Isabella suggests, local consumption and production of food can help reduce emissions. Steps you can take include starting a garden and teaching others how to garden, as well as buying crops that are in season in your area, reducing the transportation of crops that come from thousands of miles away.

If you eat meat, Isabella suggests consuming animals native to your area, and educating yourself about the resources required to raise various animals. Finally, consume natural foods when possible to help reduce the energy required to process food.

Heeseong: Convenience Is Killing the Planet

Heeseong begins her presentation by explaining how livestock are impacting the planet and what we can do at various levels (governments, corporations, and individuals) to reduce that impact. 

Governments can regulate emissions and materials, such as plastic; corporations can change materials, such as swapping plastic for glass or other more sustainable materials, as well as reducing disposable products; and individuals can walk or ride a bike instead of using fossil fuel-powered vehicles, consolidating loads of laundry, separating garbage collection, and more. We can also delete our emails: 10 emails equal 172,500 gigabytes, which translates to 55 million kilowatts of power.

Elizabeth: The Great Barrier Reef and Climate Change Threat

Rising temperatures, severe storms, pollution, and sediment runoff all damage the Great Barrier Reef, which spans 2,300 kilometers in the Coral Sea off the coast of Australia and is inhabited by 25% of all known marine species. Using dramatic imagery, Elizabeth explains how ocean acidification leads to coral bleaching. Warmer temperatures also force habitat changes as marine animals seek cooler temperatures, upsetting the ecosystem.

Elizabeth suggests that everyone donate $1 to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation; many people contributing a small amount adds up! Also, reduce emissions by buying products that use sustainable production. Finally, raise awareness — tell friends and family about climate change so that we can solve problems together.

Climate Change Scholarship Criteria

Students were evaluated on several criteria. They could receive up to 50 points, with each element earning up to 10 points:

  • Description and analysis of their chosen climate change issue

  • Supporting material (5 points for sources, 5 points for the visual presentation) 

  • Action plan

  • Overall organization

  • Delivery

While students were competing for a partial scholarship to put toward their next semester’s tuition, they also gained valuable experience practicing their research, presentation, and communication skills.

“My generation, we never thought about climate change,” begins Atkinson. “We were part of the problem. Now, we have an opportunity to influence and help and make people aware that even doing little things can have a big impact.”

“It is so easy to get overwhelmed sometimes looking at climate-change issues. This gives a sense of the steps we can take [that] will collectively make a difference,” Quill says. “It is inspiring.”

Want to participate in 2022? Keep an eye out for more information from your Shorelight academic advisor. 

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