Congratulations to our 2022 Environmentalist of the Year Scholarship Winner – Vanessa Richards

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Vanessa Richards, a Ghidotti Early College High School Senior, is the 2022 recipient of the Environmentalist of the Year Scholarship.

Scholarship recipient Vanessa Richards

This scholarship, administered by SYRCL, is offered to graduating high school seniors who plan to pursue a degree in the environmental field. Each year, a young river steward from our community is awarded a $4,000 scholarship.  

An environmental activist and outdoor enthusiast, Vanessa has dedicated her time volunteering during our annual Yuba River Cleanup and has worked with SYRCL’s Watershed Science Director, Aaron Zettler-Mann, sorting data from Hammon Bar for her Senior Project. Vanessa is a young activist who has shown her commitment to the environment by serving as Action Lead Director for the Nevada County Sunrise chapter and co-founded the Environmental Club at Ghidotti. When asked about her involvement as an environmental steward she wrote, “I am part of a youth-led organization called the Sunrise Movement. We are working to protest the Idaho-Maryland Mine and are setting up tabling events to inform others about the negative effects of climate change.” She plans to continue her involvement in organizations like Sunrise as she enters university to fight for the preservation of our wonderful planet.  

While growing up in Grass Valley, Vanessa spent her time keeping up with her older sister as they traversed in chest-high water over slick, algae-covered rocks trying not to fall in the river. This was the beginning of her life-long connection to the environment where her relationship to nature has driven her to appreciate, respect, and protect our natural world. In her free time, you can find Vanessa continuing to cultivate this connection through painting, backpacking, camping, and impromptu Yuba River trips.  

Hammon Bar

Vanessa will attend UCLA this upcoming fall to study biology. Her freshman year biology class sparked a curiosity about the microscopic world, the balance of microbiomes and their impacts on the environment. She is excited to embark on her college journey in pursuit of her passion for science and continue her environmental activism. She said she is most looking forward to “meeting new people and being in a completely different environment that I am used to.” 

We are thrilled to award our annual scholarship to Vanessa and are excited to see how she continues to steward the environment. She expressed her gratitude to SYRCL for awarding her this scholarship and wrote, “This scholarship means the world to me. I would not have been able to afford a college education without the help of SYRCL and other scholarship organizations. I am honored to be chosen out of everyone who applied to be the Environmentalist of the Year!” She has wanted to give a special thank you to Aaron Zettler-Mann for assisting her with her senior project and providing the necessary information on Hammon Bar.  

To learn more about the Environmentalist of the Year scholarship visit: If you would like to make a donation toward the scholarship fund to help ease the financial burden of higher education for aspiring environmental stewards visit: and write “scholarship fund” in the notes. 

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