Three high school seniors honored with 2022 Coastal Stewardship Award

Published 6:56 am Monday, May 16, 2022

The North Carolina Coastal Federation is honoring three graduating high school seniors with the 2022 Coastal Stewardship Award. Isabella Lettieri of Frisco, Madison Paige Reavis of Newport, and Nicole Coursey of Hampstead have been selected to receive the annual award for their accomplishments and activities that make them great coastal stewards.

NCCF launched the Coastal Stewardship Awards program in 2019 with one award and has since expanded the program to include three awards coastwide of $1,000 each. This year’s award program was supported by Coastal Stormwater Services, Inc., SEAGLASS Wines and other local supporters.

“We’re so happy to honor these students who have really gone the extra mile for the coastal environment,“ said Sarah King, development director with the federation. “Their dedication and enthusiasm are so inspiring.”

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High school seniors from North Carolina’s 20 coastal counties were invited to apply for the award. Out of a wide range of applicants, the federation’s award committee chose this year’s winners with the following highlighted accomplishments.

Isabella Lettieri graduates in May from Cape Hatteras Secondary School. She grew up going to maritime camps to learn about the local environment. With a certification to help endangered sea turtles, Lettieri was one of the few students who worked in the school’s hatchery, caring for sea animals and a multitude of plants. In the warm seasons, she searched for turtle nests across the beach. In the cold seasons, she searched for cold-stunned turtles and brought them to a rehabilitation center so they could be transferred to the aquarium on Roanoke Island.

Lettieri said, “There has never been a time where protection of our coastlines, coastal waters, and environment are as important as they are today. As residents of this pristine place, we need to take responsibility and be stewards of our coastline. The only way to protect it is by acting now and I believe we can each do something to make a difference.”

Madison Paige Reavis is set to graduate in May from West Carteret High School in Carteret County. “I have loved the coast since I was a small child. Growing up, I wanted to positively impact the environment that had provided me with so many happy memories. Throughout middle and high school, I attended many marine science camps and volunteered with the Coastal Federation. I’ve planned several Coastal Clean-ups, of which the goal was to protect our estuaries and keep our coasts beautiful.” Reavis said she hopes her contributions to the coast will be able to make a difference, “I hope that these actions truly impacted my community and coast in a positive way. I am so grateful for the opportunity given to me by the Coastal Stewardship Award, and I hope to use these funds to supplement my education in order to continue my service to our invaluable environment.”

Reavis attended the Coastal Conservation Fellows Summer Camp, Girls Exploring Science & Technology Camp and the Brad Sneeden Marine Science Academy, where she had the chance to learn about environmental conservation and coastal vegetation. She has also completed roughly 50 hours of coastal cleanups throughout her time in high school.


Reavis was accepted into the PKS Aquarium’s Virtual Teen Stewardship Program where she learned about possible jobs in marine science, ways to protect our environment and what advocating for our coast means. She has volunteered with the North Carolina Coastal Federation in a number of ways, including cleaning up Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail and Rachel Carson where she was able to assist in the rescue of an injured pelican on one trip and she helped create an oyster reef to restore her local oyster populations. Reavis has also completed roughly 50 hours of coastal cleanups throughout her time in high school.

Nicole Coursey is graduating in May from Topsail High School. She is the president of her school’s Ecology Club and is responsible for planning volunteer activities for the club to participate in. This year, she initiated a trash clean-up at Surf City. Coursey also worked with the Surf City Community Center to install and paint two rain barrels, helping to reduce runoff and flooding around the facility. Additionally, she works with the Cape Fear Tree Alliance and Wilmington Tree Initiative to plant trees in her local community and planned her own tree planting event effectively planting 30 longleaf pine seedlings.

This project was a part of her experience as a teen climate ambassador with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Youth Engaged in the Science of Resilience program. “Protecting the coast is not just about addressing a single goal, like saving the turtles or reducing single-use plastics, instead it is about being cognizant of how our everyday activities affect the ocean. It is thinking about where the seafood we buy comes from, where the fertilizers we apply to our lawns will run off to, and all the little ways we can tweak our routines for ones that will ensure a future with fish in the sea,” explained Coursey.

“The Federation is pleased to honor these impressive students and is grateful for the support of our sponsors who make the Coastal Stewardship Award possible,” stated a press release from NCCF announcing the awards.