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Four Young Hudson Valley Environmental Leaders Earn Awards from The Open Space Institute to Lead Local Projects

New York, NY (May 25, 2022)— The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced recipients of its 2022 Barnabas McHenry Hudson Valley Awards, honoring exceptional young leaders who are working to protect and enhance the Hudson River Valley. The projects of the four recipients aim to strengthen and improve communities in the region by improving local composting efforts, supporting historic preservation in the area, capturing the agricultural history of the Hudson Valley, and promote community engagement with a variety of area cultural resources.

As part of the OSI program, students partner with nonprofit organizations to develop projects that advance environmental conservation, environmental justice, historic preservation, the arts, and tourism in the Hudson Valley.

“The Open Space Institute is glad to support the projects of the four strong applicants,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute. Through their proactive involvement, these students are building relationships and becoming young leaders in their communities. These young people represent the bright future of the Hudson Valley and are adding to Barney McHenry’s amazing legacy of conservation leadership in the region.”

OSI established the McHenry Awards in 2007 to honor the extensive contributions of its Trustee Barnabas McHenry, a renowned, local environmental philanthropist and conservationist. The awards are funded by an endowment, raised by OSI, to provide paid internship opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students who partner with local organizations in the pursuit of research, leadership, and community involvement.

OSI’s McHenry Awards provide up to $5,000 to each graduate or undergraduate student to partner with regional nonprofits in the fields of environmental conservation, environmental justice, historic preservation, the arts, and tourism, with and additional $1,000 going to the partnering institution.

“OSI is proud to be able to provide these opportunities for area students to learn and engage with local nonprofits in a way that affords them terrific learning experiences, as they serve their local communities,” said Jessica Watson, director of the OSI McHenry program, who stressed the importance of providing financial resources to the recipients. “Not every student can afford to accept an unpaid internship with a community organization. OSI’s McHenry Award solves that problem by providing a source of funding to both the students and organization.”

The 2022 recipients of the McHenry Awards and their project descriptions are as follows:

Pictured from Left: Elizabeth, Stephanie, Jessica, Steven.
Pictured from Left: Elizabeth, Stephanie, Jessica, Steven.

Jessica Alonso is working with the Kingston YMCA Farm Project to set up a community-based compost site. The site, located in midtown Kingston near several schools, aims to reduce food waste, build local soil health, and serve as an easily accessible education site for local schools interested in teaching about sustainability. The K-town Compost site will also support young environmental leaders by providing training and environmental stewardship experience. Jessica is pursuing an undergraduate business degree from Syracuse University.

Steven Baltsas is working with the Fullerton Mansion Center for Culture and History to create a series of walking tours in Newburgh. The tours will focus on how the community and municipality of Newburgh can work together to prevent historic buildings from falling into disrepair, highlight the social and architectural history of several Newburgh communities, teach attendees how to identify signs that a historical building needs repair, and identify some strategies communities can engage in to intervene before a historical structure is lost. The project will create a toolkit of training materials so that similar walking tours can be replicated in other Hudson Valley cities. Steven is pursuing an Art History and English degree from SUNY New Paltz.

Elizabeth Gannon is working with the Museum Village of Old Smith Clove in Monroe, NY to create a permanent exhibit examining the agricultural history of the Hudson Valley through the use of farming tools. The exhibit will incorporate the stories of women, enslaved people, and other marginalized communities into the area’s environmental history with the goal of shining a light on diverse historical perspectives. Once completed, the exhibit will feature more than 25 different farming artifacts and include an interactive section on how to use various farming implements. Elizabeth is pursuing a master’s in Arts History from the University at Albany.

Stephanie Napolitano is working in High Falls, NY with the D&H Canal Historical Society on a project called “Supporting Sustainable Engagement and Promoting Local Entrepreneurship Through Pop-Up Events.” The project aims to enhance community use of the Society’s visitor center by scheduling a series of community events in the multi-use visitor center space, including craft demonstrations, short performances, and local food tastings. The events will be hosted in partnership with local businesses and nonprofits to promote sustainability and environmental stewardship while highlighting local parks, trails, and tourism activities. Stephanie is pursuing a Communications degree from Marist College.

Over the past 15 years, OSI has committed nearly $336,000.00 to 61 McHenry Award grantees working in support of the Hudson Valley.

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