PennDOT Is Recruiting High School Students to Lead Environmental Stewardship in Pennsylvania

(90.5 WESA) For the second year in a row, high school students across Pennsylvania will get the chance to work with state and local leaders to address environmental issues.

Students participating in Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful’s Young Ambassadors Program — sponsored by PennDOT — will host at least one clean-up event in their community, along with education and engagement events.

“While it is focused around litter and illegal dumping, it’s ultimately focused on community improvement and community engagement initiatives,” said Kylie McCutcheon, who oversees the program.

A 2019 study conducted by PennDOT and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful found there were roughly 502.5 million pieces of litter left on state roadways. Of that, just over 30% consisted of plastic, with plastic film and bottles being the most common.

Since then, PennDOT and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection have worked to develop a Litter Action Plan, of which the young ambassadors program is a part.

McCutcheon said the 35 students participating in last year’s cohort worked on a range of projects, from community beautification to local outreach. McCutcheon pointed to Eli Majocha, then a senior at Highlands High School in Natrona Heights, who taught elementary school students how to reuse and reduce their waste.

“We know that students, especially high school students, are the leaders of future generations,” McCutcheon said. “We know that we can count on them to help change littering behavior, and they’re a large part of the solution.”

Students will have the chance to join six virtual education sessions focusing on cleanup safety, policy and practice. Students will also conduct and present an assessment of environmental issues in their community.

Applications for the program’s second cohort opened Tuesday. Students in grades 10 through 12 have until Sept. 14 to apply.

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