Congressional Award Gold Medal for Voluntary Public Service
Will Charouhis is a seventeen-year-old environmental changemaker from Miami, Florida. Aiming to exert whatever influence he can on the climate crisis, he serves as a National Youth Leader in Dr. Jane Goodall’s Institute and the youth delegate for National Wildlife Federation and America is All In. In 2019, after experiencing the effects of climate change firsthand when Hurricane Irma flooded Miami, Will founded Forces of Nature, leading the youngest organization accredited by the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. A published author on the climate emergency, Will publishes a blog on his journey to COP and is a contributing author to The Invading Sea. It is Will’s great honor to serve as a recurrent panelist nationally and internationally with environmental icon Dr. Jane Goodall on the strength of youth and the power of hope. An unexpected advocate with a quiet but determined voice, Will is already leading on a global stage, sharing the GenZ perspective as the youngest American at COP25 in Madrid and COP26 in Glasgow and as a US Climate Action Hub youth representative. Will has submitted testimony to the White House Environmental Justice Council and was widely published for his work in having Miami declare a climate emergency. “A firm believer that innovation, scale, and the human spirit can solve the climate crisis,” Will is pioneering funded research on the artificial selection of mangroves to withstand ocean acidification and warming at a small lab space he resourcefully procured at the Aquarium Educational Center. Scaling up his A Million Mangroves Initiative, Will has shared his research by speaking at United Nations conferences this past year in NYC, Glasgow, Stockholm, Bonn, and Lisbon. Touting mangroves as nature’s best solution against climate change, he has already drawn in partners in Australia, Gabon, the Dominican Republic, and Fiji, sharing his mangrove research in the hopes of increasing restoration efforts along the Western African coast. A relentless voice that it is time for his generation to act, Will’s organization has provided disaster relief to 1100 families in Honduras, Haiti, and the Bahamas, countries Will says “are least responsible for carbon emissions but most affected by climate change.” As a Director of the Miami Youth Climate Leadership Board, he works alongside leaders from 8 high schools across Miami-Dade to provide climate education to more than 2500 students in 16 countries. At school, Will has served all four years on the Environmental Sustainability Council, leading efforts with his peers to implement meatless-Mondays, eliminate single-use plastics, and recycle electronics, books, and uniforms. This year he is leading the Students for Solar in a plan to install solar panels on the roof of his school’s new STEM building by December 2023. In recognition of his tireless efforts in service to his community, Will was the only youth in Miami-Dade County and one of the youngest in the country to be awarded this year’s Congressional Award Gold Medal with STEM recognition, the highest honor the United States Congress bestows upon youth civilians. He also received the Barron Environmental Prize for his mangrove conservation work and was recognized as a Young Social Impact Hero. His work is currently being featured in mini-documentaries in production by Inspiring Young Heros and Blue Missions. While he is honored by the awards, Will’s focus remains acutely forward and solution-based. When the State Department invited Will to meet with Barack Obama at COP26, former President Obama encouraged Will’s generation to transition from advocacy to action. Taking the advice to heart, Will believes it is past time for his generation to act. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly this Fall, Will told world leaders: “Youth are the doers.” We are the “Yes we can thinkers. We are innovators. And we will change the world if you let us.” He is already showing up-every day-leading his peers, and even the adults in our community, in creating a sustainable world.