Former senior class president wins prestigious prize
Maria Blancas, a 2008 graduate of Quincy High School and senior class president, is the 2019 recipient of the Bullitt Environmental Prize.
Currently a doctoral student at the University of Washington, Blancas was recently chosen by the Bullitt Foundation for its 13th annual environmental prize. The honor comes with $100,000 over two years.
Reached by phone on Oct. 25, she told the Post-Register, “I am still in shock.”
When the prize was announced, her family members happened to be together, meeting to send off her sister to study abroad.
“I got the news with my family in the room,” Maria Blancas said, adding that news of the prize was fol-lowed by “a lot of tears, a lot of excitement, a lot of joy.”
Her family also joined her in downtown Seattle for the award presentation on Oct. 9.
At the event, she also got to meet previous prize recipients. They encouraged her to just enjoy the moment.
“I couldn’t really enjoy the moment,” she said. “I was too nervous.”
Graduate students often struggle financially while they pursue their advanced degrees. For Blancas, the Bullitt Prize means she will not have to work multiple jobs to pay her way as a student.
“I can really dedicate my time to my research and working with community members,” she said. “It is going to be a big blessing.”
The Bullitt Foundation describes Blancas’ research as focusing on cumulative social and environmental impacts to farmworkers in Skagit and Whatcom counties.
According to the foundation’s website, the Bullitt Environmental Prize recognizes young people from varied backgrounds who have overcome adversity and demonstrated the ability to become powerful environmental leaders. The goal of the program is to help broaden and diversify the leadership of the global environmental movement.
“Agricultural produce touches everyone through the food we eat, yet too often we forget the people working to bring it to our tables,” said Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, in the website posting. “Maria’s work gives voice to people who are frequently hidden from view, highlighting impacts to their health and bringing their needs out of the shadows.”
Blancas was born in the Mexican state of Michoacán, moving to the United States with her parents as they worked in farms in California and Washington. At 9 years old, she gained legal residency, aided by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, according to the foundation.
Past winners of the Bullitt Environmental Prize include a soil carbon researcher, Bahamian marine biologist, wildlife conservation leader trying to reduce conflict between wolves and ranchers, veterinarian with a doctorate in public health who studies zoonotic diseases, a researcher focused on climate change adaptation, and an advocate for organic food security, according to the foundation.
The Bullitt Foundation was founded in 1952 by Dorothy Bullitt, who first brought broadcast television to Seattle. In 1992, the Foundation hired Denis Hayes as president and began focusing on safeguarding the natural environment by promoting responsible human activities and sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest. For more information, visit www.bullitt.org.
By Dave Burgess, firstname.lastname@example.org