2017 Barnabas McHenry Awards Go to Young Hudson River Valley Leaders

New York, NY (May 1, 2017) - The Open Space Institute (OSI) has announced the recipients of the 2017 Barnabas McHenry Hudson Valley Awards, honoring exceptional young leaders who are working to protect and enhance the Hudson River Valley. The five recipients, who represent communities throughout the Valley, will work this summer with prominent community nonprofits.

OSI established the McHenry Awards in 2007 to honor the extensive contributions of its Trustee Barnabas McHenry, a renowned environmental philanthropist and conservationist. Funded by an endowment raised by OSI, the awards go to graduate and undergraduate students pursuing research, leadership and community involvement in the Hudson Valley.

“The winners of our McHenry Award represent the bright future of the Hudson Valley. Each year we are surprised and delighted by the applicants, their project ideas, and their passion to improve their communities,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “Through educational, conservation and cultural projects, these leaders of tomorrow are adding to Barney McHenry’s amazing legacy of dedication to the Valley.”

Left to right, 2017 McHenry Scholars: Michael Burke, Anya Ptacek, Miranda Fey Whitus, Samantha Robinson and Molly Scott.
Left to right, 2017 McHenry Scholars: Michael Burke, Anya Ptacek, Miranda Fey Whitus, Samantha Robinson and Molly Scott.

Every year, OSI makes awards of up to $6,000 each for graduate or undergraduate students to partner with regional nonprofits in the fields of environmental conservation, historic preservation, the arts and tourism. This year, OSI is featuring a fifth category, healthy communities, to directly engage with the interests of student leaders. Since 2007, OSI has committed nearly $223,000 to 42 McHenry Award grantees working in support of the Hudson Valley. 

 The 2017 recipients of the McHenry Awards and their project descriptions are as follows:

Michael Burke will work with the Rondout Valley Growers Association (RVGA, Inc.) to create a model of community outreach that engages the next generation in addressing food insecurity through RVGA’s Farm to Food Pantry Program. The project will use brochures, community forums and the creation of a raised bed garden to provide college students at SUNY Ulster with a direct connection to the farm community, and help create awareness about food access. From Newburgh, NY, Burke is currently an undergraduate student at SUNY Ulster.

Miranda Fey Whitus will work with Bard College to create a genealogy and comprehensive history of the families connected to the historic Montgomery Place estate. Exploring the association between objects and owners, Whitus will research the heritage and history of the Hudson Valley by analyzing the design aesthetic, artistic practices and material possessions of families who lived in the estate during the 19th and 20th centuries. From Tivoli, NY, Whitus is an undergraduate at Bard College.

Anya Ptacek will work with Hudson Valley Seed to build four new school gardens at elementary schools in Newburgh and Kingston in New York’s Hudson Valley. The project will involve learning about educational garden design and implementation, designing and building new educational gardens, planting and maintaining the gardens daily, and teaching healthy eating programs in the gardens. Ptacek, from Cold Spring, NY, is an undergraduate at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Molly Scott will work with Teaching the Hudson Valley (a project of Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, National Park Service, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College) to create a comprehensive guide of Hudson Valley heritage sites associated with notable women or events related to women’s history. The project aims to celebrate the centennial of woman’s suffrage in New York State by making it easier for K-12 teachers and educators to incorporate women’s history into their work with students. A native of Poughkeepsie, Scott is an undergraduate student at Marist College.

Samantha Robinson will work with Groundwork Hudson Valley Inc. as a youth leader for their Green Team program. As a Green Team alumna, Robinson’s project will be to lead the Green Team during their weekly shift at the Yonkers’ Farmer’s Market, develop a one hour curriculum surrounding urban agriculture and healthy communities, and act as a youth mentor for current green team participants.  Robinson, from Purchase, NY, is an undergraduate at SUNY Purchase.

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