Environmental Leader Today: Jose Garcia-Chong

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 - 5:30pm

By Andrew Gansky, Event & Development Assistant

As a long-time participant in the Keep Austin Beautiful Green Teens program, Jose Garcia-Chong has demonstrated remarkable personal dedication to environmental stewardship and outstanding leadership among his peers. In recognition of his accomplishments, we are very pleased to honor Jose with the Dell Youth Achievement Award.

Jose joined Green Teens his first week of 6th grade at Paredes Middle School, and until the day he graduated 8th grade in 2017, he enthusiastically participated in weekly activities, convinced his younger brother and various friends to join the group, and even got all his younger siblings to come out for workdays in the Paredes Garden. His leadership skills were especially notable during the 2016–2017 school year. That year, Keep Austin Beautiful planted about a dozen trees in the garden and tasked the Green Teens with watering them frequently to help establish strong roots. This meant that the first twenty minutes of most weekly Green Teens meetings were spent refilling the water gators placed around the trees. It was a repetitive, physical task that often provoked grumbles and sighs. Jose, however, recognized the importance of the task and took it upon himself to inspire the other students, teaching them how to refill the water gators and the best carrying techniques. Jose’s leadership in such situations reflects his immense pride for the Paredes Garden and natural spaces in Austin, as well as his constant willingness to show others how to care for plants and the environment.

At the end of Jose’s final year at Paredes, he was understandably elated when it came time to harvest the garden. He had helped expand and care for the garden for three years, and had planted numerous seeds in the early spring in anticipation of his last growing season in middle school. Since it was the final week of classes, Green Teens were allowed to harvest anything they could find. Jose picked up squash, turnips, and other veggies from the garden, but the season had been rough on the plants and there were not enough vegetables for all the kids to have some of each. Even though Jose had been waiting to harvest for weeks, he gave away most of his veggies to other students, another example of his enthusiasm for sharing the wonders of the natural world.

As a member of Green Teens, Jose has been to the top of Enchanted Rock and explored the depths of a worm composting bin. Combined with camping twice at Palmetto State Park and taking breathtaking nature photographs, he has become well versed in all things composting, recycling, tree planting, solar car building, lean-to making, garden planting, and more. Jose’s enthusiasm for the environment, his curiosity to learn more, and his helpful manner make him an outstanding Green Teen and exceptional person. He is not an environmental leader of the future; he is a leader right now. As a freshman at Akins High School, he is excited to plug into Green Teens of Akins to continue his journey.

Join us in honoring Jose Garcia-Chong alongside Keep Austin Beautiful’s other 2017 awardees at the Beautify Bash, taking place at Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum on Thursday, November 16, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. For more info and tickets, please visit keepaustinbeautiful.org/beautifybash.