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April 01, 2013

University of Georgia Sierra Club Activists Win Prestigious Environmental Scholarship

Udall winners
Photo by Maura Friedman.

University of Georgia (UGA) students Ian Karra and Sara Black each found their environmental activist callings after attending the Sierra Student Coalition's nationally-recognized Summer Leadership Training Program (SPROG). Meeting through the Sierra Club's UGA Beyond Coal Campaign, they immediately became best friends and took their campus by storm, dedicating most of their time to running two of the campus' most active environmental campaigns and organizations. Now Ian and Sara have won the great distinction of being nationally recognized as 2013 Udall Scholars.

The Udall Foundation was established by Congress in 1992 to provide federally-funded scholarships for college students like Ian and Sara, who intend to pursue careers related to the environment, as well as to American Indian students pursuing tribal public policy or health care careers. It recognizes students who exhibit future leadership potential, academic achievement, and a record of public service.

This year, the prestigious scholarship was awarded to 50 students from 43 colleges and universities, chosen from 488 candidates nominated by 230 schools. Each scholarship provides up to $5,000 for the Scholar's junior or senior year. Ian and Sara were the only students awarded the scholarship from UGA.

Ian was one of the original founders of the UGA Beyond Coal campaign nearly three years ago. Along with a small group of other students, he designed the original strategy to pressure UGA’s President and administrators to retire the campus’ aging coal-fired boiler. This fight has garnered local and national attention and is still a premier campaign at UGA, largely due to Ian's focus on mentoring younger leaders involved in the campaign. Ian is majoring in economics, with an emphasis in public policy and finance. He wants to continue a career in energy policy and grassroots advocacy.

A former intern of the Sierra Club, Sara has contributed to the UGA Beyond Coal campaign as a leading volunteer and has served on the Logistics and Fundraising Committees for the Sierra Student Coalition. Sara is currently running UGA's "Real Food" campaign, which aims to get the Food Services department to shift 20% of the university's food purchases towards sustainable and ethical food, creating a market for a just food economy. Sara is double majoring in Anthropology and Ecology and has a strong desire to continue to be a part of the environmental movement. Whether she becomes a campaign strategist, an academic working on environmental justice issues, a local organizer, a small organic farmer, or an employee for the Sierra Club, Sara will do what she loves and excel at it.

Sara and Ian not only strive to make change on campus - but also work together as a dynamic set of co-leaders for GA YES (Youth for Environmental Solutions), a network of over 75 student environmental leaders on over a dozen campuses in Georgia. As co-leads they helped to launch new clean energy campaigns at three campuses, provided training resources, and hosted events for student environmental leaders throughout the state.

All of us here at the Sierra Club congratulate Ian and Sara on their well-deserved achievement. Their commitment to pursuing careers in the environmental movement will create a cleaner and safer planet for future generations to explore, enjoy, and protect.

-- Anastasia Schemkes, Associate Campaign Representative, Sierra Student Coalition


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