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Live, from New York: It’s the National Envirothon Champions!

August 13, 2021 by

High school competitions come in all categories. At the Mount Academy in Esopus, New York, we’re proud to participate in the National Conservation Foundation’s Envirothon, a program that combines in-class instruction of natural resource management with hands-on field experiences. Of course it culminates in a national academic competition. “Nationals” brings together high schoolers from all over the country (and Canada) to test our natural knowledge and challenge ourselves to solve environmental problems in creative ways. We don’t just participate, we go all in! When we took fourth place in the 2019 Envirothon in North Carolina, we knew that next year – 2020 – was our year. With all five team members returning, we were the favored team to win first place; competition experience is a plus. But that dream was cut short in March 2020 when COVID shut down . . . everything.

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That year we won the New York state competition virtually, and watched half our team graduate and leave for other parts of the world. Nationals, of course, had been cancelled.

Thanks to the hard work of the administration and staff, the Mount Academy reopened in person in September 2020, allowing us students to regroup, albeit with masks and social distancing. Over the next ten months, our new Envirothon team grew together and prepared for the 2021 virtual national competition hosted from Lincoln, Nebraska. We studied forestry, aquatics, soils and land use, wildlife, and a current environmental issue – for 2021, groundwater management. Almost every day our coach, Neal Horning, drilled us on our public speaking skills in preparation for the oral presentation we would give via webcam.

It wasn’t the same out-of-state trip to compete and socialize with students from all over the country. Even still, the room where we watched was charged with excitement as the announcers began listing the top teams, starting with tenth place. Finally we got near the end: “Third place: South Carolina. Second place: North Carolina. And in first place, with a combined score of 571 points – New York!”

There may have been further announcements coming through the computer at that point, but I didn’t hear them. All sound was drowned out by our cheering and screaming as we tossed confetti and tore through the halls of our school, shouting our victory to anyone within earshot. Our work payed off! We had won! COVID could not stop us! We were national champions!


Josiah Boller graduated from the Mount Academy in June 2021. He currently lives at Maple Ridge, a Bruderhof in Ulster Park, New York.

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