Oct 4, 2022
Thought Question: How are young people helping to build a better world and future?
In 2017, Will Charouhis of Coconut Grove, Florida, saw how destructive a hurricane can be.
“Hurricane Irma flooded my city,” Will told the United Nations General Assembly on Transforming Education. “We were learning about climate change in school, and I knew I had to do something. With that one storm, my story changed.”
Will is 16. He’s decided to help stop coastal floodings. He’s spent a lot of time researching solutions. Will found one natural solution: mangrove trees. Mangroves are native to Florida. They grow in dense thickets. The trees have been proven to stop floodwaters. They also improve water quality and provide habitats for animals. Mangroves sequester carbon, a greenhouse gas. Will began the nonprofit We Are Forces of Nature. Since then, he has spent over 1,400 hours planting six miles of mangrove forest along Florida’s coast.
Another storm caused Will to expand his focus. In 2020, Hurricane Ida caused huge mudslides throughout Central America. We Are Forces of Nature collected and sent over 1,100 bags of supplies to areas hit by the storm.
Eager to shine light on Will’s work, Congress awarded him The Congressional Award Gold Medal for Voluntary Public Service. That's the highest honor the US gives young people each year. He also received the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. It's given to those who “have made a significant positive impact on people, their communities, and the environment.”
Will is quick to point out how his work has impacted him. “I ended up gaining more than I gave,” he told the Miami Herald. “I learned that youth can make a difference.”
Photo from Press Release courtesy of Eric Fernandez at The Congressional Award.
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