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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : News : Gov. Markell joins DNREC Sec. OMara to honor Delaware's Young Environmentalists of the Year

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Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902. 

Gov. Markell joins DNREC Sec. O’Mara to honor Delaware’s
2012 Young Environmentalists of the Year at Fair ceremony

HARRINGTON (July 26, 2012) – Today at the Delaware State Fair, Governor Jack Markell, DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara and U.S. EPA Region III Administrator Shawn M. Garvin announced that three Delaware students were being honored as the 2012 Young Environmentalists of the Year.

“These three exceptional young Delawareans are becoming the conservationists, naturalists and environmental stewards who will help preserve our environment for tomorrow,” Governor Markell said. “We appreciate their interest, their talent and the promise they bring for Delaware’s future.”

Age is no deterrent for these young students who want to protect our environment and improve our quality of life,” said Secretary O’Mara. “This year's award winners deserve our praise and admiration.”

The 2012 high school winner is 17-year-old Melissa Matsanka of Newark, a junior at St. Marks High School in the fall who is working to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award by organizing and operating a recycling program at Holy Angels School in Newark.  Her project involved implementing recycling at the school, educating 4th, 5th and 6th grade students by developing and teaching lessons on recycling, and starting an after-school club of recycling leaders, the Angels Club for the Environment.

“Melissa is passionate about her recycling efforts and has enjoyed her time educating future recyclers,” Colette Matsanka wrote in her daughter’s nomination. “She has been an inspiration to these students,” she added, noting some have started recycling at home too.

Contest judge Lynne Staub was impressed with Melissa’s organization. “From creating recycling bins to developing procedural manuals to initiating a school-wide recycling club, she has created a program that has the potential to continue long after she graduates,” Staub said. “By designing educational bulletin boards and teaching younger students about the importance of recycling, Melissa is inspiring her school community to make positive environmental choices.” 

The 2012 middle school winner is 12-year-old Caitlin Aber of Newark, an eighth grader at Holy Angels School in the fall. Caitlin is a longtime 4-H Environmental Science Club member who participates in a variety of activities, including water monitoring, wetland restoration and trash cleanup. She also makes bird and wildlife homes and feeders. This year, she made bee blocks – a bee house made from a block of natural wood with holes drilled in one side – and gave presentations on the importance of native bees.

Joyce Van Stan, who nominated Caitlin, wrote about middle schooler’s long-term involvement in 4-H, which has given her many opportunities to “get the message out” about environmental issues. Van Stan felt this year’s bee project was especially impressive, complete with educational brochures and numerous presentations to various groups including schools and scouts. “This year Caitlin decided to not only make bee blocks for her friends and family, but to educate as many people as she could on the importance of native bees and how to help them survive and multiply,” Van Stan said, noting that Caitlin helped more than 60 people make and place bee blocks.

“Caitlin’s Bee Block project is both a unique and innovative way to reach out to the community and to promote good stewardship of a controversial insect species. Her presentations and literature highlight the importance of bees as pollinators and her ability to convince so many of her community members to create bee blocks and promote bee populations is impressive,” Staub said. “This project has the potential to benefit our native ecosystems as well as the agricultural community. Caitlin’s involvement in other environmental activities (such as Adopt-A-Wetland) also demonstrates her commitment to the restoration and preservation of Delaware’s natural resources.”

The 2012 elementary school winner is 8-year-old Gabriel Fennemore of Wyoming, a homeschooled second grader who channeled his love of nature and passion for animals into a photography project. Over the past two years, he has been photographing wildlife – especially bugs and birds – in his own backyard and Wyoming Pond. His photos are posted on his own website,, along with information about the amazing creatures all around us.

“Gabriel is constantly seeking information from books and DVDs that detail animals, and memorizing facts to share with others. His belief that wild creatures should be studied yet left alone has given him an avid interest in the environment and ecosystems,” his father, Bart Fennemore, wrote in Gabriel’s nomination. Of the website that features the young naturalist’s work, Mr. Fennemore added that Gabriel “hopes it will inspire a love of nature and a desire for conservation not only in his peers, but in everyone.”

Contest Judge Staub liked what she saw on Gabriel’s website. “Gabriel’s nature photography website is impressive for his age and shows an early respect for the world around him,” Staub said. “His photos are often accompanied by quick facts that allow the viewer to broaden their understanding of the wildlife and habitats he’s captured in his images. This is a modern approach to sharing information that will appeal to older and younger generations alike.”

Established in 1993 in honor of former DNREC Secretary Dr. Edwin H. Clark II, the Young Environmentalist of the Year Awards are presented annually to Delaware students who have worked to protect, restore or enhance our state’s natural resources through environmental stewardship, innovative projects and promoting public awareness.

Also honored today were the first place winners in the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife’s 2011 Hunting and Fishing Photo Contests. This year’s honorees were: 

  • Michele Reeder of Dover, took first place in the Fishing Photo Contest. Her photo of her son Colin at Cape Henlopen is on the cover of the 2012 Delaware Fishing Guide.

  • Tom Burke of Greenwood took first place in the Hunting Photo Contest. His photo of his son, 5-year-old Tom Jr., hunting near Broadkill Beach, is on the cover of the 2012-2013 Delaware Hunting and Trapping Guide. 

The 2012 Fishing Photo Contest is currently accepting entries now through Saturday, Sept. 15. The 2012 Hunting Photo Contest will accept entries from Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012 to Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. Entries may be mailed to the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife, Attention: Amanda Belford, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE 19901. Information and forms are available on the Division’s website at and the Fish & Wildlife Facebook page, or may be requested by calling Amanda Belford at 302-739-9911, or email

Vol. 42, No. 277

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