Explore Ecology Announces Winners of Environmental Stewardship Awards

Santa Barbara: Winners have been chosen for the Explore Ecology Environmental Stewardship Awards that recognize students, teachers, and classes who promote environmental stewardship through education and action. The 2018 award winners were nominated by community members who believe that these unsung heroes of Santa Barbara County should be recognized for their efforts to create a more sustainable and healthy world.

The public is invited to meet the Environmental Stewardship Award winners at a ceremony at the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival on April 21 at 12:45 pm at on the stage in the Kids Corner. Recipients will be honored and give acceptance speeches on the Kids Stage and at 2:00 pm will join CEC’s Environmental Heroes on the Main Stage where Congressman Salud Carbajal and singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins will recognize this wonderful group of environmental stewards. 

The winners of the 2018 Explore Ecology Environmental Stewardship Awards are:

  • Gabriel Ramirez and Pyp Pratt: Students K to 6th Grade
  • Sarah Dent and Josh Benson: Students 7th to 12th Grade
  • Jill Means and Jose Caballero: Teacher Awards
  • Adams School Ocean Guardians Ambassadors: Class Award

At lunch Gabriel Ramirez, a 3rd grader at La Patera Elementary School, puts on a bright yellow vest and takes action. Wheeling out a Compost Cart, Gabe collects food waste and teaches his friends how to compost. 

Gabriel is part of the Compost Squad and according to Explore Ecology Garden Educator Bennett Rock, Gabriel is a composting champion. Rock, who works with Gabriel in the La Patera School Garden, says that he has “shown commitment and passion to the school garden and composting program. Gabriel gets the job done and trains other students on how to collect scraps and promote waste reduction. On weekends, he rides his bike to pick up trash from the beach.”

If you’ve attended an Explore Ecology Beach Cleanup, you may have noticed Pyp Pratt, a 4th grader at Marymount, who is often found collecting marine debris from inaccessible places and dragging large pieces of debris that he can’t carry down the beach. If Pyp is there, the cleanup is going to be a success. Inspired by his own experiences at the beach, Pyp did a PowerPoint presentation at his school on the importance of beach cleanups and has spoken to neighbors, family, and other adults about why we should keep our coastline clean.

Sarah Dent was nominated by her friend Hattie Ugoretz who says, “Each day, Sarah goes out of her way to do something to help the environment and encourages others to join her and do the same.” At the beginning of the year, Sarah noticed neglected planting boxes at school. She repaired them, purchased tools and plants, and transformed them into a beautiful flower bed. Sarah also created and leads a Garden Club at Goleta Valley Junior High.


Josh Benson has been an environmental steward his whole life. The founder and leader of Tomorrows Green, a youth-orientated environmental organization that promotes, organizes, and implements environmental activities such as beach cleanups, Josh is also a Beach Captain at East Beach for Coastal Cleanup Day. Josh is an active participant in the YMCA’s Youth and Government program where he is developing his environmental advocacy skills. Josh successfully presented a water quality bill in the State Capitol that was passed and signed by the Governor. 

Jill Means is a 3rd Grade at Ellwood Elementary and a big believer in teaching sustainability every day. Jill holds a recycling drive with help from her team of teachers to raise money for her school, has a worm bin in her class, and creates ways to make her classroom (and school) a greener place. Jill is also raising money to get more recycling bins for the playground, so students have a choice about where their trash goes. 

Jose Caballero inspires hundreds of students at Santa Barbara High School to care for the environment and know they can make a positive difference. Jose teaches AP Environmental Science and Small Scale Food Production and received many nominations from his students, including one who said, “Jose is the most passionate and inspiring teacher I’ve ever had. I’ve learned more about our planet and life in general in his class than in my entire educational experience up to this point. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award.”

Ocean Guardian Ambassadors is an after-school program at Adams Elementary School for 3rd to 6th grade students who meet to learn more about plastic pollution, conservation, and how to be effective ocean stewards. The Ocean Guardian Ambassadors share their knowledge with their classmates and are advocates for reducing plastic waste on campus and in the community. These motivated students are also working with the Community Environmental Council and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper on the Skip the Straw SB campaign in the City of Santa Barbara. The Ocean Guardian Ambassadors program is run by Claire Fackler, John Peltz, and Allison Bell.

For more photos and information contact Jill@ExploreEcology.org or call 805-884-0459 x13. 

Leave a Reply