2022 Don’t mess with Texas® Scholarship Contest

Don’t mess with Texas Scholarships 2021-2022

As we reach the end of this 2021-2022 school year, we are again reminded that the litter-free spirit of Don’t mess with Texas lives on in the next generation. Our three scholarship winners have proven that there will be people dedicated to cleaning it up as long as there’s litter in our state. These three Don’t mess with Texas stars remind us how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.

Maddox Michener, Van Alstyne TX, $5,000 winner 

Several years ago, Maddox’s hometown of Van Alstyne looked like many Texas towns still do. The major highways and thoroughfares were kept clean and free of litter, but the more minor roads and rural areas of town that the kids walked through on their way to school was another story. The Keep Van Alstyne Beautiful society in town was doing a great job keeping the main thoroughfares clean.

Maddox, who enjoys taking walks and bike rides outside, came face-to-face with this issue every time he and his friends tried to enjoy nature. They saw that many areas of town were being neglected. Maddox realized that the adults needed some help keeping the town litter-free.

With the support of his biology teacher and six of his classmates, Maddox founded the Clutter-Crew. Maddox used his savings to purchase gloves, large trash bags and safety vests for his clubmates. This small team would go out on weekends and after school to clean up litter on the back roads and fields of town. The townspeople quickly took notice. Many stopped to thank the teens when they saw them cleaning up the streets.

As the Clutter-Crew continued their work, they noticed that there was not as much to clean up. Seeing the kids out picking up litter after school caused people to think twice about throwing their trash in the street. The Keep Van Alstyne Beautiful society was grateful for the Clutter-Crew’s help and donated supplies and funds to the high school club. Since the Clutter-Crew’s first clean-up, they have hauled away over 6,000 pounds of trash.

Maddox plans to bring his leadership talents to the University of Texas at Austin. There, he will continue his litter-free lifestyle while studying English.

Amariss Hill, Richmond TX, $2,0000 Winner

Amariss attends William B. Travis High School in Richmond, Texas. She has served as a Girl Scout for the past nine years. Her activities in this organization, including beach clean-ups, recycling drives and highway trash pick-ups, taught her the importance of keeping the environment litter-free. When Amariss entered high school, she took a personal interest in the issue of litter when she noticed her classmates using a large number of plastic containers at lunch. She also noticed there were no recycling options available on her school campus.

Amariss’ observations of her classmates’ lunchtime behavior led her to research waste-management and consumer behaviors in the United States. Through her research, she learned that 80% of materials in landfills are recyclable. She also knew that 9 out of 10 Americans would recycle if it were more accessible. Amariss realized that her classmates were not harming the environment on purpose. They simply did not understand the environmental impact of their behavior. They did not have convenient means to change their behavior.

To spread awareness of the problem, Amariss worked with her school to create and edit 5 videos that illustrated the impact of waste on the environment and how small, local steps like recycling can make a significant impact. She also worked with the Girl Scouts organization to create workshops to educate younger girls on the effects of trash on the environment and the importance of recycling.

Amariss was awarded the Girl Scout Gold Service Project Award, the organization’s highest service award. Her videos on the impact of litter and recycling reached over 3,000 students in and around her hometown of Richmond, Texas. Amariss plans to attend Texas A&M University, where she will study Meteorology. Amariss and others like her help raise awareness of trash’s environmental impact on the environment and the critical, local steps we can take to make our environment more beautiful.

Julia Gilliam, Corpus Christi, TX, $2,000 Winner

Living in Corpus Christi, Julia Gilliam saw the impact of trash, including plastic left on beaches. She knew that the problem became even more visible after storms and hurricanes swept the Gulf. When Hurricane Hanna made landfall on the Gulf Coast, Julia came face-to-face with the issue. In the wake of this hurricane, many beaches in and around Corpus Christi and Nueces County were closed due to the amount of debris, mostly comprised of small pieces of glass and plastic improperly discarded, that had washed up onshore. After speaking to the Director of Nueces County Parks and touring one of the closed beaches, Julia decided to take action.

Julia often organized and led beach clean-ups with her local 4-H club. However, she knew that they would need help from the larger community this time. To combat the problem and clean the beaches, she created the My Nueces County/Kleberg County 4-H Club Beach Clean-Up Challenge. Over three weeks, Julia promoted the clean-up with social media videos and TV interviews. She secured 4 trailers that brought over 300 community volunteers to the clean-up. She also gathered and donated water bottles and trash bags for the volunteers. At the end of their beach clean-up, they had cleaned over 3 miles of coastline and cleared away 78 cubic tons of debris. In addition to the beach clean-up, Julia led school workshops for elementary and middle school-age students that showed them the harmful impact litter has on marine and wildlife.

Thanks to Julia’s clean-up efforts, beaches were able to re-open more quickly to the public following Hurricane Hanna. Also, due to her clean-up and awareness efforts, marine animals and wildlife will be safer and healthier in their natural environments. Julia plans to continue caring for the environment at Texas A&M, where she will study agriculture leadership, education and communication.