Tania Pulido of Richmond was a high-school truant with no college aspirations. But she eventually discovered she had a passion for social justice.
"We are facing a lot of those challenges, we live in poverty, a lot of people are unemployed, people are fighting, a lot of people are killing each other, you know Richmond is known for its homicides," Pulido said.
Pulido put her leadership skills to work at an urban garden in Richmond. She organized the community and trained local youth to work and appreciate urban agriculture.
"I felt that my role in this is to create like a foundation, a model where people can come and take a leadership role and there is no one person in charge of everything," Pulido said.
Today Pulido is the site coordinator of this garden, engaging teens from the Richmond community to take ownership of this green space.
Pulido's work earned her the Brower Youth Award from the Earth Island Institute. There were a total of six winners. Each of them received a $3,000 prize along with a year of leadership training and bragging rights.
"The award represents the most amazing, brightest and best eco-activists around north American ages 13-22," Earth Island Institute spokesperson Anisha Desai said.
Two Michigan high school students who were also recipients are trying to change one of the ingredients in Girl Scout cookies. Palm oil is cheap, but when plantations are cleared, the orangutan habitat is destroyed.
"We've been working with a food scientist who has suggested a canola oil blend that could be used as an alternative to the palm oil in the cookies," Rhiannon Tomtishen said.
"If people are given the right resources and opportunities anyone can thrive and we should really work toward that," Pulido said.
Pulido is now also pursuing a college education.
By the way, the Girl Scouts have agreed to begin using only sustainable palm oil in their cookies by 2015.