For one weekend in June every summer, teachers and students from all over the country gather in our nation’s capital to celebrate their achievements in energy education. These teachers and students worked hard all year long, creating energy related projects that increase awareness in their communities and take strides toward a more sustainable society. The most impressive projects are selected as state and national winners and are invited to share their accomplishments and formally receive their awards at NEED’s Youth Awards Program. With over 700 participants and guests in attendance, this year was the largest in program history.

This year, I had the pleasure of helping coordinate the 32nd annual Youth Awards program. Preparing a fun-filled weekend for over 700 people was no easy feat, but my co-coordinator, Ian Munn, and I managed to pull it off with the help of some great NEED staff and youth volunteers. We kicked off the weekend with an Energy Carnival and a High School reception- where older students were able to present their projects to one another.

Later Friday evening, everyone enjoyed an Opening Ceremony Banquet and an ice-cream social, which was the perfect way to end a long day of travel.

The fun really kicked off on Saturday with a full day of touring in Washington, D.C. The Parade of States dinner on that evening was a great chance for participants to meet other students from all across the country and trade goodies that represented their home states. Touring and trading were a blast, but the highlight of Saturday was definitely the dance. DJ Jeff got the party started, and it was not long before students (and even some parents) were showing off their dance moves.

Sunday was filled with more touring and a dinner cruise on the Potomac River. The Hawaiian themed cruise is always a participant favorite, and an excellent opportunity to see Washington D.C. by night from a beautiful new point of view.

Monday was the big day we had all been waiting for- the awards ceremony! The ceremony had many fantastic speakers; among them were Diane Lear, chairman of the NEED Board of Directors, and Dr. Franklin Bertley, Vice President of Science and Innovation at the Franklin Institute.

Over 40 school groups were recognized at the ceremony, each one with a different and creative project. The end of the Awards Ceremony marked the end of a fun-filled and exhausting weekend. As students prepared to head back to their hometowns, I was overcome with a sense of accomplishment. When these students arrived in Washington they arrived with suitcases and anticipation. When they left, I am confident they also carried home new ideas for energy projects, and a higher respect and admiration for their fellow students all across the country.

Youth Awards exemplifies the “Kids teaching kids” ideal, giving students the opportunity to share their projects and inspire one another for future projects. Recognizing the achievements of over 300 bright young students is a truly rewarding experience. The 32nd Annual Youth Awards ceremony was undoubtedly a success, and I feel so fortunate to have played a part in it.


A guest blog written by Rachael Spencer, Youth Awards Staff