Virginia Beach teen wins $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award

by | Jul 14, 2022 | Trending News

Evan Nied, a Virginia Beach teenager, has been awarded the 2022 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award from the Helen Diller Family Foundation for his work in planting trees to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change. The $36,000 award is for his nonprofit organization Planting Shade, which has not only exceeded its initial goal of planting 1,000 trees with nearly 12,000 trees across different states, countries, and continents, but also increases literacy about the impact of climate change.

“I’ve been an environmentalist for as long as I can remember,” says Nied. “But the idea of fortifying my community against the effects of pollution and flooding didn’t come until my family and I evacuated Virginia Beach due to Hurricane Florence. The most important thing I remember thinking was this shouldn’t be happening, and what can I do to stop it? After speaking with community leaders and local environmentalists, I found that the best thing I could do to prevent future disasters is plant trees.”

Trees are “effectively super plants,” says Nied, that can clear the air, strengthen the soil, prevent erosion, and provide shade. “Planting a tree adds to ecosystems and decreases high temperatures. Trees are vital in preventing the localized effects of flooding.”

He calls the Jewish community “instrumental” in helping him spread the word about his organization. Most of Planting Shade’s chapter organizations in the United States were founded directly or indirectly through the friends he’d met in BBYO (B’nai B’rith Youth Organization).

Nied’s goals for the organization are to plant more trees and expand into environmental education.

“We’ve already held around a dozen Planting Shade seminars where we go to elementary and middle schools and talk about the importance of trees in the environment,” he says. “I want the seminars to be even bigger and I will work to create a new curriculum that Planting Shade can disseminate internationally.”

Nied is the son of Emily and Joel Nied. He graduated from Kempsville High School and will attend the University of Virginia as a Jefferson Scholar and Echols Scholar.

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Debbie Burke