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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 401-874-7892

URI junior wins nation’s top environmental scholarship

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 8, 2003 -- University of Rhode Island junior Adam Zitello hopes to one day become a congressman so he can advocate for informed environmental policies and play a major role in decision making on other key issues. The Poland, Ohio resident is already making a national name for himself as one of 80 winners of the Udall Scholarship, the nation’s top scholarship for excellence in environmental policy.

Awarded by the Morris K. Udall Foundation, the scholarship is awarded to outstanding students across the country who have demonstrated interest in and potential for careers related to environmental public policy. The scholarship will pay $5,000 toward Zitello’s tuition for his senior year at URI.

"When students claim they wish to run for public office, we normally nod and smile at the naivete of their presumption at actually thinking themselves able to be elected in the first place. Not so with Adam," said Cheryl Foster, associate director of the URI Honors Program. "His capacity to build coalitions is exceptional and his non-aggressive, inclusive leadership style invites trust and participation."

An honors student since his freshman year, Zitello’s dedication to environmental sustainability is reflected in his wide-ranging academic research and community involvement.

As the founder of the student group Down to Earth, Up to Us, he has motivated fellow students to take small but important steps to ensure that natural resources are protected and not wasted.

"It’s been great to see it blossom from an idea into a dedicated group of students that are willing to volunteer their time on issues and programs of sustainability," said the environmental science and management major. "These guys really make me smile when I think that they are the next leaders of this nation. We are becoming a stronger force every day."

Zitello has taken his environmental message to local elementary schools, too, as a volunteer with the Kids Grow program, which grows vegetables to be donated to area food banks. He spent two nights a week last summer helping 20 children plant, weed and harvest a quarter acre garden. "I viewed the opportunity as a chance to work with kids in a setting that not only embraced their heritage with respect to the land, but also enhanced the lives of people we would never meet," he said. "Through this experience I realized that growth as a community can be good as long as it doesn’t violate the natural character of the land. These students truly taught me a lesson in how to exist with, rather than just take from, the earth."

During his years at URI, Zitello has earned the University’s Coastal Fellowship twice and the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Award, merit-based research grants to study environmental issues. As a Coastal Fellow, he spent last summer locating, visiting and describing all of the public access points to Rhode Island’s shoreline. "This was my most rewarding research, because this year the Sea Grant program will put out a coastal access guide based on my research so Rhode Island citizens can enjoy these beautiful public places." He also spent a summer studying the impact of nitrogen-rich groundwater entering the state’s coastal lagoons.

This semester Zitello is studying aquaculture at the University of Hawaii, which also affords him time to pursue his passion for surfing and playing the guitar. After one more year at URI, he aims to attend grad school to study coastal zone management or marine science. "Ultimately, I want to make a positive impact on the policies and management of the coastal zone."

Next stop, Washington, D.C.

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