Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains is pleased to announce the awarding of the “Jane Pratt and Jed Shilling Blue Ridge Mountains Education Award” to Katie Lee Akin of Loudoun Valley High School, Purcellville, VA. The Award, consisting of $1,000 scholarship toward college tuition and a framed certificate, was presented to Katie at the school’s Awards Assembly by FBRM Education Committee Chair, Carole Napolitano and FBRM President, Peter Weeks.
In her essay Katie, a Purcellville resident, noted, “How incredible it is to have a place so close to my hometown where you can get lost under a canopy of trees, stumble across babbling brooks, and see expansive views where the treeline unzips. The Blue Ridge mountains are what make home home to me”. While at Loudoun Valley High School Katie co-initiated The Green Team, an environmental action club involved in two important projects: collection of plastic bags that will be turned into a bench for the school, and a recycling promotion to separate recyclables from trash at the school. Katie stated, “…the emphasis on proper waste management will help to make sure our students don’t contribute to the litter choking our trails and waterways”.
Katie will attend University of Virginia-Wise where she will double-major in Public Policy and Environmental Studies, and plans to transfer to UVA-Charlottesville in her Sophomore year. Katie believes double-majoring in both disciplines will prepare her for the “inevitable arrival of mass consequences due to climate change and overpopulation”. The future certainly looks bright with young people like Katie who have a deep appreciation of, and commitment to protect, the environment and our beautiful mountain ecology.
I have lived in the same house in the same bedroom in Purcellville, Virginia my whole life. Whenever I travel out of the state or to the coast, the towns I visit immediately look different. They look very…flat. The sense of being away from home is heightened by how I can see towns in their entirety; the horizon is a line you can trace. It only took me sixteen years to realize why places away from Virginia feel so foreign. The Blue Ridge Mountains have cradled my existence, framing every horizon of my day-to-day. Living in the valley, Purcellville is set on hills and bumps and bends, drops of the mountains ten minutes away. Something as simple as a sunset at the beach is mystifying to me. Sunsets have always meant the sun slipping behind slumbering hills wrapped in blurred navy gauze, not the sun disappearing into a long seam where the sky meets the earth. Experiences like these reveal to me how much the mountains have set the context for my understanding of the world.
I remember scampering up to Bears Den as a kid, terrified of tumbling off the rocks. Conversely, on a hike with my best friend this past summer to Raven Rocks, I sat on the edge, admittedly nervous but more eager to gawk at the view. How incredible it is to have a place so close to my hometown where you can get lost under a canopy of trees, stumble across babbling brooks, and see expansive views where the treeline unzips. The Blue Ridge Mountains are what make home home to me. You can find a suburban town anywhere in the United States, but what makes Purcellville home is a low-lying stretch of blue in the distance, the intoxicating smell of a temperate forest in bloom, and hills and ridges that make life here anything but flat.
This scholarship would be a great relief to me as I will be paying for my own college tuition. This scholarship would help me pay for degrees in public policy and environmental studies. Aiding me in the pursuit of my dream career will help me accomplish our shared goal: preserving the natural landscape. My education will enable me to obtain a position where I can prioritize the environment and ensure its destruction is stopped. I don’t want our vernal pools to dry up from rising global temperature, I don’t want our salamanders to reach the top of the mountains and still be overheating. I don’t want our flora and fauna to go extinct, I don’t want urban development to eat away the forests on our mountainsides. I don’t want these consequences for people who grew up next to the Rockies, or the Sierras, or even by the ocean and on the plains. This scholarship will help me to reach my goal of crafting policy that protects our ecosystems, our mountains, our home. Thank you for your consideration of my application.