Tremont Institute is honored to be named a finalist for the UL Innovative Education Award for the Environmental and Community Leaders Fellowship program. This award recognizes the top environmental STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs in North America.

The Environmental and Community Leaders Fellowship program is in only its second year since being co-designed by Tremont Institute and Fulton High School (Knoxville) faculty. The program takes juniors and seniors in high school through an immersive 2-year experience that includes 10 days of residential learning at Tremont in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, monthly meetings at Fulton High School, an annual student-led community engagement day event in Knoxville greenspaces, and an annual student-led community environmental stewardship event in Knoxville. Furthermore, graduating seniors are recruited into summer internship programs at Tremont Institute to further their exploration of academic and career pathways in either education or STEM fields.

Judges on the award panel were impressed with the immersive 2-year model of the program, the focus on developing youth leaders through genuine leadership opportunities, and the commitment of Tremont Institute to partnering with diverse and underserved communities to further environmental health, justice and community access to nature for all.

The Tremont Institute and Fulton High School leaders are inspired by being named a finalist for this award and are excited to continue to build upon the initial successes of the program.

Here’s what participating students are saying about the program so far:

“Everything is so different here in Knoxville. At Tremont, we used to look back at the stars at night, laying down, being real quiet. I went outside one day [in Knoxville], and thought ‘Why all the light? Can we just turn off all the light?’ My momma thinks I’m crazy when I tell her to lie down and look for the stars. She says, ‘That trip done changed you.’ I want more kids to experience what I experienced. They would change too.”

“I wasn’t close to any of my friends at Fulton and honestly didn’t have that many, [friends] but the experiences that I shared with strangers at Tremont, and the journey that we had, built friendships that will mean a lot to me these next few years at least. As a person, I am so much happier on a daily basis.”

“I never thought I would actually enjoy outside and nature, the bugs, the dirt. But suddenly, I got more comfortable with it…taking the time to actually observe nature. It made me rethink what I want to do…when I grow up.”

“As a person I learned to try new things even if it’s out of our comfort zone and to experience new things even if we think we won’t like it.”

“This trip to Tremont was one of the best weeks of my life. It honestly changed my life because I was able to build good relationships.”

“As a person, I felt mental changes. I learned to love people I didn’t know. They became family. I saw the beauty of the world that is so close to us, yet most of us miss. We are so small and should be connected with each other and with the world around us.”