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Eckerd senior wins national environmental activism award

Published September 23, 2021
Categories: Academics, Awards, Environmental Studies, Students, Sustainability
Senior Alex Gordon underneath mangrove branches

Texas native Alex Gordon will receive a cash prize and in-depth training for professional environmental activism. Photo (above and below) by Angelique Herring ’19

Alexandria “Alex” Gordon talked herself out of applying for the Earth Island Institute’s Brower Youth Awards her junior year because past winners’ achievements seemed so intimidating.

Even though her advocacy work with the Florida Public Interest Research Group Students and the Post Landfill Action Network led Eckerd College to become the second higher education institution in the nation to sign the Break Free From Plastic Pledge and the first to enact a campuswide spending policy, she didn’t think she measured up.

“A lot of people that I look up to have won this award, which is specifically for youth environmentalists,” says the senior environmental studies and political science student from Houston, Texas. “This really felt like a reach.”

Still, she pushed down her doubts, applied, and found out during the summer that she has joined her pantheon of heroes as one of six 2021 Brower Youth Award winners who will be honored at a two-part virtual event on October 14 and 19.

“I worked at Eckerd over the summer, so I was sitting in Alpha Lounge when I got an email congratulating me,” Alex recalls. “I screamed. Someone asked me, ‘Are you okay?'”

Alex Gordon removes plastic pollution from the mangroves.

On top of the prestige, Alex will receive a cash prize of $3,000 and a real introduction to the world of professional environmental activism. The Earth Island Institute was founded in 1982 by activist David Brower to provide support to environmental protection projects and the next generation of leaders in the field. Beginning in 2000, Earth Island founded the New Leaders Initiative and began awarding Brower Youth Awards to young activists to encourage their growth and prepare them with fellowships, microgrants, media training, mentorship, professional skill building, networking events, community partnerships, and access to resources and relationships to lead and sustain effective campaigns and projects.

“Alex’s drive and passion have allowed her to achieve remarkable things in a short amount of time,” says Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Joanna Huxster, Ph.D., Alex’s mentor. “She’s already made tangible impacts in environmental and climate justice and reducing plastic waste and production, while continuing to be an incredible scholar and an active participant in campus life. She’s truly incredible and deserves all of the recognition she has earned for her achievements and more. I see a bright future ahead of her that will make the world a better place for all of us.”

Alex said she’s really excited for the next step in the Brower process—the various training and networking opportunities that are offered to winners. In addition to participating in campus organizations, as a Bevan Scholar and an Eastman Leader, she’s sure her senior year will be filled with more ways to make an impact.

“This is ultimately what I want to do. I’m pretty positive I will be working somewhere in the nonprofit world,” Alex explains. “As long as I can work in mitigating the harm to marginalized communities, I think I’ll be very happy.”