top of page


The Friends of Moraine Hills State Park awards scholarships each year to students from Lake, McHenry or Kane County who wish to enter the field of environmental studies in college.  Details of the 2024 scholarship program will be available here soon.


Below are short biographies and essays of the 2023 winners!

Joseph Hissem took a year off after graduation to enlist in the National Guard.  He will attend the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where he will study Agricultural Science.

Essay by Josheph Hissem:

     Throughout my childhood, I have been surrounded by stewards of the  environment. As a kid, my dad would bring me to horticulture conventions, trips to
golf courses and nurseries, and visits to Moraine Hills and other state parks was a weekend favorite. I met leaders involved in forestry, tree care, ecological
restoration, and individuals who were good stewards of the environment. Growing up around these people, I too have adopted an aspiration to become a steward to
the environment. My aspirations grew throughout my 12 years in Boy Scouts and in High School. During this time, through Boy Scout Troop 149, I volunteered to
remove the old Moraine Hills boardwalk and build a new trail Kiosk near the entrance of the park. For my eagle project, I built two planters for McHenry Middle
School to plant herbs, plants and vegetables for their Environmental Club. In high school, I took the AP Environmental Science class where we conducted studies on
pollution in Boone Creek and the Fox River. There, the impacts of human caused climate change greatly piqued my curiosity. I believe that issues like increased
floods, fires, droughts, air pollution, contaminated water, and overfishing and acidification of the ocean are not a high enough priority in our society and in our federal government as it should be. The changing climate is damaging to our society and I believe this issue should be at the forefront of Congress' minds; not squabbles about whether one side of the aisle is right or wrong. At the end of the day, we all live on the same earth. We all face the same problems. We band together or face the consequences together. In my future career, I want to become the change that I wish to see and become a steward to the environment. I am a dedicated, intelligent, adaptive, and extremely hard-working student who firmly believes my passion, experiences, and drive to save our planet will set me on a path to lead a life of stewardship.​

Amelia K..jpg

Amelia (Mia) Kellen plans to attend the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she will study Environmental Science and Urban Planning.

Essay by Amelia Kellen:

     Over the past few years, I developed an awareness of environmental and social justice concerns in my community, and this motivated me to seek opportunities to get involved. Last year, I was selected as the sole youth representative and a full-fledged voting member of the Strategic Plan Advisory Committee (SPAC) for Geneva, Illinois. As a board member, I study, advise and report on the strategic plan and citizen-driven projects to the mayor and city council.

     As part of a recent environmental initiative, I helped develop and implement community plans aimed at enhancing green space and promoting bike-friendly infrastructure (trail maintenance, signage, accessibility). Thanks to new funding, Geneva is preparing to implement these upgrades in the near future. Improving bike accessibility in downtown areas can have a significant positive environmental impact. Not only will it strengthen community bonds and promote interaction, but it can also foster individual health outcomes and drive economic growth within the community.

     I am also the Co-Chair of the city's Student Government. Last Fall, I helped lead efforts to increase local recycling awareness and replace parkway trees. In the first, I conducted group research into best practices for recycling plastic items and engaged with city officials. Based on this experience, I assisted the team with refining our recycling proposal to ensure broader acceptance. This collaborative effort led to the creation of a recycling commercial that was broadcast within our local community.

     In the second campaign, I canvassed subdivisions to promote the "Parkway Tree Replacement" program. Residents partnering with the city would split new tree purchases 50/50. Our outreach successfully engaged with over 200 households, resulting in a 15% immediate signup rate and the "greening" of our city's neighborhoods.

     Based on my interests, I plan to major in Environmental Science/Sustainability and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Both subject area programs appeal to me because they offer a broad interdisciplinary approach that teaches their students how to address real-world issues relating to environmental sustainability and planning in our cities.

     Ultimately, my goal is to contribute to the creation of sustainable, livable cities that prioritize the lives of their residents while minimizing the negative effects on the environment. By using sustainable materials (recycled, local, green, renewable), leveraging innovative technologies and incorporating "green" best practices into my work, I hope to provide equitable access to resources and opportunities, while protecting our natural environment for future generations.

Olivia Amaya will attend the University of Rhode Island to study Environmental Science and Management.

Essay by Olivia Amaya:

     The earth is such a complex and beautiful place to live. I've always had an appreciation for the earth and my grandma helped spark my curiosity at a

young age. Living in the city made it difficult for me to explore nature. She would take me to parks and teach me about recycling and the importance of picking up trash. She would flip over rocks and show me what good soil truly was made of. I owe my love for the environment and my curiosity to my grandmother, and I am so grateful she helped me find my passion. She inspired me to learn and explore nature therefore resulting in my motivation in helping the planet. Taking biology, horticulture, and AP environmental science also motivated me to want to pursue a career in environmental science.

     I am very involved with my environmental community, in Geneva. I am part of the Natural Resources Committee, President of the Geneva High School

Environmental Club, and I volunteer regularly in my community. In addition to my involvement in local environmental issues, I am very cognizant and educated on the many environmental crises at hand. My high school science teachers have made it a priority to talk about global change and anthropogenic consequences. Working with environmentally conscious individuals to help the environment and the climate crisis is why I began working with the Natural Resource Committee. With my current experience and desire to impact climate crisis, I am confident that I will be successful in my pursuit of a career in the field of environmental science. I have worked in restoration ecology, have experience with light pollution, recycling, and sustainability outside of my school experiences through community workshops. I am beyond thrilled to be starting my journey in a career in environmental science. There are numerous outcomes, in terms of jobs, opportunities, and self fulfillment. I am looking forward to broadening my environmental experience and knowledge in the future.

bottom of page