By Environmental Action Group

Just in time for Earth Day, Mason’s Office of Sustainability received word that they had been awarded a $5,000 grant for their Student Training for Environmental Protection program. For a week this summer, college students from all over the United States and Puerto Rico will be coming together at Prince William Forest to learn how to turn their passion for the environment into action.

Colin Bennett, outreach coordinator for the Office of Sustainability and director of the program, submitted the program to the Brighter Planet Project Fund competition at the beginning of April. The program had to compete against seven other environmental projects to see which one could receive the most votes during the 15-day voting period. Through the efforts of people across Mason reaching out to their friends and family to encourage them to vote, the resulting 2,233 votes won the program $5,000. This money will help greatly with aiding the students who will require scholarships in order to attend.

This year marks the second Student Training for Environmental Protection program organized by the Office of Sustainability. According to Bennett, “This program teaches students how to become successful environmental advocates; students will leave this program with the skills and knowledge needed to lead strong and successful groups that will be able to run effective environmental campaigns on their campuses or in their communities.” These skills will allow students to be part of the movement that solves climate change, environmental injustice and economic failure.

Shelby Steinberg, senior elementary education major, is looking forward to the program even though she is graduating in May. “I have friends that went last year and they said it was one of the best experiences they had while at Mason. I know that they really enjoyed their time . . . [and created] valuable relationships with other individuals of similar environmental interests and concerns. I know that the things I learn will be applicable to my future jobs and goals, as I plan on teaching the values of the environment to the students in my elementary classrooms.”

In addition to the Brighter Planet grant, the Student Training for Environmental Protection program is supported by the Environmental Action Group, the Mason Organic Garden Association, University Life and Campus Progress. “We are greatly appreciative of all the people and organizations that have come together to help us make this program a reality,” said Bennett. “With their help, we will be able to train part of a new generation of environmental leaders.”

In addition to learning, Bennett promises that students will meet awesome people, eat great food, participate in fun activities and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Participants from last year’s program have said it was one of the most empowering experiences of their life.

Environmental science and policy graduate student Ashley Mott, a participant in last year’s program said, “If I went in with any expectations, I definitely came out of it blown away because it far exceeded any expectations I had. I learned more in a week than I have in previous years of my life. The Student Training for Environmental protection was a truly incredible experience with incredible people.”

For more information about the program, contact Colin Bennett at