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Student Leadership

NEED 's Youth Awards program is a great way to show off energy related projects you have been doing in your classroom or afterschool. Projects are due to NEED by April 15th each year.

Youth Energy Leadership Award


The NEED Project will present the Youth Energy Leadership Award to up to two students each year. Up to two $1,500 awards will be granted for use for college tuition and expenses to deserving students who have demonstrated outstanding energy leadership, knowledge, and an interest in continuing their energy studies for the purpose of seeking a career in energy. Each year, at least one award will be given to a student who plans to enter the energy field or public service related to energy.


This award is designed to honor students demonstrating effective leadership skills and energy knowledge throughout their association with NEED.
The following are examples of traits the award committee will consider as it chooses recipients of the awards:

  • An effective leader who leads by example and is well respected by his or her peers.

  • An encouraging facilitator who serves as a team leader.

  • A leader who creates excitement and motivates others to accomplish great things.

  • A leader who demonstrates energy awareness at home, school and in the community and educates others about energy.

  • A student who is knowledgeable about energy and has taken the time to not only be a leader of energy activities but has developed a knowledge base about energy and important energy issues.

  • Graduating high school seniors or current first or second year college students.

  • A student showing interest in pursuing a career in the energy field.

2018 NEED Leadership Award Application - Word Doc - PDF

Past Student Energy Leadership Award Winners
1994 Doug Blemker 2002 Justin Paschall 2010 Erin Shoaf
1995 Josh Rising     2003 Brian Bosso and Mary Mazarolli 2011 Rachael Spencer
and Amanda Ramirez Sebree
1996 Judith Elekes 2004 Megan Thoma and David Graham 2012  Alysha Anderson
1997 Matt Steele and Tiffany Bonner 2005 Jennifer Robinson, Caterina Spaziano,
Chrissy Edwards
2013 Brooke Reagan
1998 Emily Thomas 2006 Roxie Brown and Michelle Lamb 2014 Ian Munn and Amber Lipsky
1999 Heather Brouillet 2007 Whitney Newman and Jake Kesner 2015 Janelli Pineda
2000 Heidi Nees 2008 Ryan Flynn 2016 Alton Gayton and Laurel Hughes
2001 Rebecca Lamb 2009 Casey O’Connor 2017 Diane Wei

2017 Youth Energy Leadership Award Winner - Diane Wei

Each year, the NEED Project presents  the Youth Energy Leadership Award  to a deserving student who has demonstrated outstanding energy leadership, knowledge, and an interest in continuing his/her energy studies for the purpose of seeking a career in energy. This award is designed to honor students demonstrating effective leadership skills and energy knowledge throughout their association with NEED. The 2017 Recipient is Diane Wei from Kankakee, Illinois. Diane’s hard work, determination, and commitment to energy and the environment inspire others. Diane has served on the NEED Youth Staff for several years, bringing her many talents in science, photography, Polar Bears, Fish and more to the program.  Working with Diane is like working with a great educator – she is funny, kind, quick to assist others, and always ready to accept that hard work brings the greatest rewards. She is a joy to serve with on the Youth Awards team and has always appreciated the “warm fuzzies” that come from working with others. This award honors the best of the best in NEED’s history and we know that Diane will be part of the NEED family for many years to come! This weekend, you saw her snapping photos, leading activities, and enjoying all the weekend had to offer. Stop her and ask about her experiences with NEED – she’s one of the best spokespeople we could have. Diane, thank you for your years of service to students, teachers and NEED.  We are lucky to have you in the NEED family.
Congratulations on Graduation!  We look forward to watching you succeed! 


2016 Youth Energy Leadership Award Winners - Alton Gayton and Laurel Hughes

NEED congratulates Alton Gayton of William G Enloe High School in Raleigh, North Carolina and Laurel Hughes of Oconee County High School in Watkinsville, Georgia on receiving two prestigious awards: The Youth Energy Leadership Award and the Student of the Year award.
The Youth Leadership Award was created by NEED’s Board of Directors to recognize students who go above and beyond in their pursuit of energy knowledge and in the teaching of others. And these students are among the best.

From an early age, Alton admits to be enthralled by energy. From working in an “Energy Savers” club in elementary school to starting on the Youth Staff at 14, he has earned his thorough understanding of technical concepts.  In school, he designed an innovative car that ran on wind-powered. The project did so well, the teacher assigned the challenge to the rest of the class, modeling after Alton’s concept. Last year, Alton earned a spot as a Student Facilitator for NEED and attends conferences and conventions around the country. From the moment he arrives, he brings enthusiasm, professionalism, and that perfected energy knowledge. He’s proven to be thorough and meticulous about his work and is a friendly face we have come to count on again and again.

Laurel admits to being a shy little girl from Tennessee before her experiences with NEED. Seven years, two states, and many Youth Awards later, she leads a middle school NEED team, makes presentations about energy conservation, and generously acts as a role model to younger students, exemplifying the concept that you can be into energy and still be cool. When she moved to a new school district, she fought to bring energy to the classroom, independently setting up recycling bins and making announcements about local sustainability events. In addition to singing the National Anthem at the past two NEED Recognition Ceremonies, Laurel has consistently brought a positive outlook to the youth staff team each June. She can talk the energy talk, but has also stepped up to walk the walk.
These two students think big ideas and they make them happen.

This award includes a $1,500 scholarship to be used for their post-high school educational plans. Alton has been accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he intends to pursue a degree in chemistry and explore its role in renewable energy. Laurel has been accepted to Georgia College and State University where she aspires to design energy-efficient homes. They will both receive an all-expenses paid trip to the 36th Annual NEED Youth Awards for Energy Achievement where the award will be given at NEED’s National Recognition Ceremony in Washington, D.C. on June 27, 2016.

Alton’s nomination from his teacher Amber Martinez said, “Alton is organized, efficient, extremely competent, and has an excellent rapport with people of all ages. In my classroom, Alton uses his prior knowledge of the world’s energy needs when designing assigned projects, always trying to take in consideration “real world” situations when applicable. He has shared his summer experiences (energy conferences and camps) with the engineering class, providing a variety of ideas for them to contemplate.”

Laurel’s nomination, from the parent of one of her program participants, said, “Laurel exemplifies a NEED student and plans to use her energy knowledge in her future career. She wants and will use her energy knowledge to make things better for the planet and for people. She is the embodiment of a NEED kid.”

In Laurel’s own words, “NEED has prepared me to be a leader more than anything else ever has. Being on the Youth Staff has taught me how to be an independent thinker, take control, and lead a group while still being thoughtful of others. The leadership skills and knowledge about energy awareness will help me in my future plans to build eco-friendly homes.” 

In Alton’s own words, “NEED has not only molded me into a leader, but they also equipped me with the tools to make a difference in the field of study that I choose. The thought of being a part of something much bigger than you is exciting. The thought of being able to make a difference is enthralling.”

Congratulations to these extraordinary young adults. They’re the ones to watch!