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Museum Hosts Youth Leadership Panel at Major Conference

Submitted by on October 19, 2014 – 1:42 pmNo Comment

Museum hosts first-ever youth leadership and entrepreneurship panel in the SECU Daily Planet Theater, Tuesday, October 21

(Raleigh)—The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences will hold a panel discussion about environmentalism, leadership and entrepreneurship with six award-winning youth conservationists from North Carolina, Florida and California. The AFN Youth Panel will be held on Tuesday, October 21 at 1 to 2 p.m. in the SECU Daily Planet Theater during the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) annual conference being hosted by the Museum.

This panel marks the first time in the 40-year history of ASTC that a collective youth voice has been included in the conference. Their day in Raleigh will also include a visit to Moore Square Middle School where they will meet with students and faculty to talk about youth leadership and environmentalism.

All six students have had their work recognized by many organizations, including “Action for Nature” as International Young Eco-Heroes. Museum Director Emlyn Koster, PhD, will moderate the panel. Special guests include Action for Nature President Beryl Kay, who will also be in Raleigh for the conference. You can follow the event on Twitter at #ASTCxAFN.

Panelists include:

Molly Paul, 16, Saint Mary’s School student, Raleigh. Founder/Director of “Raleigh Aquatic Turtle Adoption.” She re-homes unwanted pet turtles, mostly the Red-eared slider, which is an invasive species, fundraises for NC conservation efforts through the sale of Molly’s Turtle Soaps, and founded STEM Leadership Camp. Molly’s work has been recognized by the State of North Carolina, City of Raleigh, Junior Leagues of Raleigh and Greensboro, and with the Prudential Spirit of Community Award. Molly will also participate in the Keynote address at ASTC with Dr. Hayat Sindi, founder of i2 and recipient of the Civil Society Award from President Bill Clinton. Molly recently accompanied Dr. Koster in May to Washington, DC to accept the IMLS National Medal for the Museum from First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Avalon Theissen, 13, home schooled. Founder and Director of Conserve it Forward, based in Tampa, Florida. Avalon travels throughout the United States sharing her conservation values with audiences of all ages. Her show, Nature Tracks with Avalon, is available through The Autism Channel and she is the voice of Ms. Abbey Toad on the internationally award winning CD, “Pacha’s Pajamas: A Story Written by Nature.” Avalon has received the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, and The Temple Grandin Award, and has been recognized as a Radio Disney Hero for Change and by the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

Casey Sokolovic, 17, DH Conley High School student, Greenville, NC. Founder and Director of Love a Sea Turtle, Help them L.A.S.T. based in Winterville, NC. Casey is responsible for developing the Great Bake for Ocean’s Sake, Love a Sea Turtle Trail Run, and Upstream Downstream Connections Camp. She has helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for sea turtle protection and environmental awareness. Casey has been recognized by NC Governor Pat McCrory, and received the Christopher Benchley Ocean’s Award, Nestle Very Best in Youth Award, and was the 2012 Youth Ocean Conservation Film Winner.

Cole Rasenberger, 13, Lake Norman Charter School, Davidson, NC. Convinced McDonald’s Corporation to use post-consumer recycled fiber after rallying his classmates to participate in his post card campaign aimed at the company. His work has also influenced KFC and YUM! Brands. Cole has received the Kohl’s Kids Who Care Award, Roosevelt Ashe Outstanding Youth Award, and Dogwood Alliance Outstanding Youth Award. Learn more about his work here: http://youtu.be/PIQUcDt1dhE

Rhiannon Tomtishen, 18, Stanford University, and Madison Vorva, 19, Pomona College. Madison and Rhiannon founded Project ORANGS (Orangutans Really Appreciate and Need Girl Scouts) which works to promote the use of only deforestation-free palm oil in consumer goods, most notably Girl Scout cookies. In 2011, Madison and Rhiannon’s efforts prompted Girl Scouts USA to announce a new, sustainable palm oil policy for the first time in the organization’s 101 year history. They’ve received the United Nations Forest Heroes Award, Brower Youth Award, Sea World Environmental Excellency Award, and a Giraffe Hero Commendation.

For more information about the AFN Youth Panel, contact Laura Swanson Paul at 919-593-4275 or via e-mail at larakswanson@gmail.com.


The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (11 W. Jones St. and 121 W. Jones St.) in downtown Raleigh, is the state’s most visited cultural attraction. It is an active research institution that engages visitors of every age and stage of learning in the wonders of science and the natural world, drawing them into the intriguing fields of study that are critical to the future of North Carolina. Hours: Mon.- Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sun., noon-5 p.m. Admission is free. Visit the Museum on the Web at www.naturalsciences.org. Emlyn Koster, PhD, Director; John E. Skvarla III, Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Pat McCrory, Governor.


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