Keystone student honored with Emerging Environmental Leader Award

First Posted: 10/21/2014

It was in ninth grade as a student at Mid Valley that Emily Rinaldi, now a senior at Keystone College, realized, at the urging of her science teachers, she wanted to work in a field pertaining to environmental resources. And it was through her subsequent high school involvement in DCNR’s Community Connections to Our Watershed Program and the Lackawanna and Wyoming County Envirothon that her desire grew into a passion.

“I gained a passion for it through doing it,” she said. “I gained a passion and a personal connection to wanting to continue.”

What followed was eight years of persistence in building an extensive resume that includes everything from volunteering at Second Chance Wildlife Shelter in Tunkhannock to conducting volcano studies in Costa Rica.

Her experience and accomplishments will be reflected in the 24th annual Northeast Pennsylvania Environmental Partners Awards Dinner Thursday, Oct. 30, when she will receive this year’s Emerging Environmental Leader Award for “demonstrating leadership, initiative and dedication to protecting and promoting a healthy environment.”

To Rinaldi, at age 21, the award is a big deal.

An attendee at last year’s ceremony, she noted the recipient of the Emerging Environmental Leader Award was a student from Harvard University.

“It means a lot to be coming from a small school like Keystone,” the Throop resident said. “And knowing that the student who won last year was from an Ivy League school. It also made me really feel like all the work I’ve done in the past eight years paid off.”

That work encompasses both volunteer and paid positions in the field for entities such as Keystone College’s Woodlands Campus, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Northeast Regional Office in Dallas, Lackawanna State Park, the Abington Area Joint Recreation Board, Gander Mountain in Dickson City, Endless Mountain Outfitters and more.

Rinaldi is the president of the Ecology Club at Keystone College, where she is majoring in Environmental Resource Management.

Her resume also lists global experience in Belize and Costa Rica. In Belize, she participated in Operation Ruby-throat, sponsored by the Hilton Pond Nature Preserve; Neo-tropical migrate bird banding and educational presentations to a local school. In Costa Rica, she studied the geology and ecology of the country, performed volcano studies and conducted rock collection and sampling.

In July, she worked as director of Earth Camp at Hillside Park in Clarks Summit. This job, she said, gave her insight into the programming and management aspect of an educational camp and allowed her to do “everything I would like to do in the future.” While developing and adapting the camp’s curriculum to meet grant requirements, she directed four professional teachers and two counselors working under her in the month-long camp for middle school children.

“I loved working with the kids from this area,” she said. “They were outstanding learners, very cooperative, and so were the parents – the parents were great.”

Diane Vietz, Abington Area Joint Recreation Board Vice Chair and Earth Camp Chair, is proud of Rinaldi’s accomplishments.

“Under her leadership and valuable experiential knowledge, the Earth Camp students were immersed in learning about water and other important aspects of the environment, from aquatic macro-invertebrates, seine fishing, boat safety, the park’s watershed, to owl pellet dissection. She was an exemplary model of how youth can influence change in their future.”

Another local program Rinaldi is involved in is the Bluebird Monitoring Program at Lackawanna State Park, in which she serves as an assistant box monitor, checking each of the 42 nest boxes weekly to record species, egg counts and hatchings.

Angela Lambert, of the Lackawanna State Park, first met Rinaldi eight years ago through the Community Connections to Our Watershed Program, and said her dedication to whatever she puts her mind to is one characteristic which stands out about her.

“She is always inspired to take it to that next level,” the environmental education specialist said. “She’s very committed and serious about what she does.”

After college graduation, Rinaldi hopes to obtain a job in the environmental education field and eventually attend grad school.

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