2021 Don’t mess with Texas® Scholarship Contest

In 2021, litter-free students across Texas faced unprecedented challenges. In a year filled with a pandemic and virtual school, picking up trash was the last thing on a lot of people’s minds. Nonetheless, three high-school seniors didn’t let those challenges stop them from keeping Texas clean. Because of their dedication, these college-bound seniors have been awarded a Don’t mess with Texas scholarship. Read their stories.


Rosie Bui, Galveston TX, $5,000 winner

Growing up on Galveston Island, Rosie saw the impact litter had on the Gulf and the beaches. She remembers clearly fishing with her father and watching plastic bags, bottles and rings float along the surface of the water where the fish should have been. In high school she noticed classmates throwing out plastic bottles instead of recycling them. The bottles would likely end up in Gulf waters. When she joined the National Honor’s Society at Ball High School and became Recycling Chair, she decided to do something about it.

In her Junior year, Rosie led the effort to place recycling bins in every classroom. Each Thursday, Rosie organized a group of National Honor Society members to collect the plastic bottles from the bins so that they could be taken to the recycling center. The group of 120 students collected approximately 300 plastic bottles.

In addition to her efforts at Ball High School, Rosie also helped to implement a community-wide recycling program. Through this effort, students encouraged parents and other community members to set aside plastic bottles, plastic bags, cardboard and other recyclable items so that they could be picked up by students every Saturday. Each week, Rosie and her group of litter-free students picked up approximately 100 bags of recyclable trash. As president of the National Honor’s Society in 2021, she mandated 10 hours of recycling activities for all Honor’s Society members.

In college, Rosie plans to continue studying and caring for the environment. She will major in Biochemistry with a minor in sustainability at the University of Pennsylvania. Galveston is proud of this litter-free Texan who reminds everyone that Don’t mess with Texas also means recycling whenever possible.

Omar Garcia, El Paso TX, $2,0000 Winner

As a student at Mission Early College High School in El Paso, Omar started noticing that drivers along the highway were throwing trash out their car windows. This debris was being carried by storm drains to his high school. Even worse, he started seeing that his fellow students were following the drivers’ examples and tossing their water bottles and chip bags into the desert landscape instead of in the trash or recycling bin. As a member of his school’s video production team, Omar came up with a creative idea to help solve the problem.

Omar recruited six other students to help him create a series of videos about how littering harms the environment. These videos were then played in Mission Early College High School’s high traffic areas, including the front lobby and the cafeteria.

Omar plans to continue putting his video creation talents to work at El Paso Community College where he will major in Television Broadcasting. By using the technology and resources at his disposal, Omar came up with a creative solution to his school’s litter problem. Omar’s innovative approach represents the true spirit of Don’t mess with Texas.

Short Videos shown across Omar school:

Public Service Announcement video shown across Omar’s School District:

Olivia Horner, Panhandle TX, $2,000 Winner

Coming from the small town of Panhandle, Texas, Olivia had rarely observed the problem with litter and debris that many less fortunate neighborhoods face. Her eyes were opened to the problem when she visited the nearby city of Amarillo to participate in a city clean-up. She was shocked by the litter, trash and debris in a neighborhood called North Heights. After speaking to members of that neighborhood, she realized they needed help.

When she returned to Panhandle, Olivia gathered a truck, a trailer and all the volunteers she could round up. Olivia and the group spent the day in Amarillo making trips from the North Heights Neighborhood to the city landfill with bags of trash as well as mattresses, furniture tires and wood. Over eight hours, Olivia and her volunteers hauled 3,540 pounds of trash to the Amarillo City landfill. Since the start of the project, Olivia has helped remove a total of 78,562 pounds from the North Heights Neighborhood.

Olivia’s love of her neighbors and her desire for every Texan to be able to live in a clean environment makes her a true Don’t mess with Texas star. Olivia will continue to shine her generosity and compassion on the campus of Texas A&M University where she will major in business.