Youth Changemaker: Samantha Holmes

"Samantha’s accolades in the field of environmental science speak to her motivation and initiative."

- The Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council

Samantha Holmes is a young leader in the field of environmentalism. She serves as the Vice President of the Greening Forward International Youth Council. Greening Forward is an environmental nonprofit that engages young people through a network of environmental clubs and resources.

As Vice President, Samantha helped select the new members for the 2013 youth council and is responsible for planning and managing each meeting, deciding how to allocate grants to youth-led projects and planning major events such as an international youth summit for young environmentalists. She has also drafted letters on behalf of the coalition, including a letter opposing the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process where water and chemicals are injected into rock to release liquid gas and petroleum.

In March 2013, as a Fellow at the Sierra Club, Samantha was one of only 10 people selected across the United States to execute a major environmental project combining female empowerment with environmentalism and sustainability—and the only high school student selected for this cycle. She received training and a $1,000 stipend, which Samantha is using to purchasing environmentally-friendly backpacks for children of abused women at a local shelter. The backpacks offer an opportunity to raise awareness among the children about environmental issues. Samantha is designing the project so that it will also provide light supports to help break the cycle of poverty and abuse.

Samantha is a gifted and dedicated writer who uses her skills to further her advocacy. As a part of her Sierra fellowship, she wrote a policy article on the Safe Chemicals Act. Her profile on former Texas Senator Jeff Wentworth was selected as the second-place winner of the 2013 John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Essay Contest,  from among more than 1,800 essays. In addition, she was the third-place winner in the Yale Scientific Magazine Essay Contest.

Previously, as a National Child Awareness Month Youth Ambassador—an honor awarded by the Festival of Children Foundation and Youth Service America—Samantha initiated a project in her home state of Connecticut, which struggles with prevalent Lyme disease. Samantha chose to develop a comprehensive outdoor education curriculum focusing on disease prevention. She gave presentations and led informational nature hikes. She also wrote to her local legislators about the threat of Lyme disease to young children in Connecticut, and spoke to national lawmakers on Capitol Hill on the prevalence of Lyme disease in the Northeast region. For this work, she received a letter of commendation from Senator Blumenthal (D-CT).

Outside of her environmental advocacy, Samantha is involved in her community as a Girl Scout and explores the workings of public policy. She is also an activist with the SPARK Summit, a young feminist group.

Most recently, Samantha was nominated by her high school to attend the World Affairs Seminar, sponsored by the Rotary Club, where she will participate in a week of public policy and international affairs workshops.

"There is a common saying that young people are the future, but we need our voices to be heard now."

For the past two years, Samantha has been doing environmental research on biological diversity and placed in numerous contests for sustainability projects including placing as a state finalist in the 2012  Siemens We Can Change the World sustainability challenge, and having one of the top five projects in the 2012 Apprentice Ecologist Awards.

She believes strongly in the positive power of youth input into policy and program design. "There is a common saying that young people are the future, but we need our voices to be heard now," says Samantha. "A Presidential Youth Council will enable young people with the ability actively shape our futures. My generation will inherit the America of tomorrow; thus, youth should be able to start addressing important issues today."

"My reaction to being named a 24 Under 24 Changemaker is a combination of disbelief and gratitude. I am so honored and excited to be part of such an inspiring coalition of young leaders. The Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and SparkAction are such a brilliant crusades for youth rights and it is incredible to be affiliated with these groups," she says.

This profile is one of the Top 24 Under 24 Youth Changemakers, a series hosted by SparkAction and the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council to recognize young changemakers influencing policy and practice at the local, state and national levels.

The members of the youth-led Campaign chose the 24 youth who are featured in this series, from entries submitted by peers and mentors. Learn more about the selection process.

We’re always looking for more profiles of young people making a difference, so submit one of your own!

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