BLOOMINGTON — Ahead of Earth Day, which is today, 13 Hoosier “Resilience Heroes” are being recognized by Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute as the first of its Earth Week events.

From high school students to farmers and company presidents, the 13 people have contributed to their communities and the environment in ways the institute wants to honor in its third year of naming heroes from across Indiana.

“It’s our way of lifting up people across the state who help with the environment and climate change,” said Abby Henkel, development manager at the Environmental Resilience Institute, which was established in 2017 and strives to help Hoosiers with the environmental changes.

The Environmental Resilience Institute is part of the Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge at Indiana University. Since it was formed, the institute has worked in partnership with people outside the university setting to develop teacher workshops, help local governments with environmental work and participate in citizen scientist projects, according to Jonathan Hines, communications manager for the institute.

ERI staff hope to continue that work into the future and will be preparing to move beyond the Grand Challenge grant that has funded the institute for the past five years. On Wednesday, the institute will begin a public campaign to raise awareness and funds for the institute so it can continue its work, Henkel explained. The $40 million grant has supported the institute, its staff and research projects since its inception.

In July 2022 the grant will officially expire, but the Environmental Resilience Institute will continue to serve Hoosiers, Henkel said, and IU alumni who are passionate about the environment and dealing with climate change have expressed interest in helping financially and in other ways. A crowdfunding campaign to keep the institute functioning will be announced Wednesday. Information about the crowdfunding can be found at

Today, at 11 a.m., a webinar, “Prepared by Environmental Change: An Earth Day Conversation,” will begin as part of IU’s Grand Challenges series. Aaron Deslatte, an assistant professor at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Gabe Filippelli, professor of earth sciences at IUPUI, Adam Scribner, director of STEM Education Initiatives at the IU School of Education, and Betsy Stirratt, director of the Grunwald Gallery of Art, will participate in the discussion and answer questions online. For more or to register, people can go to

The webinar is just one of the many ways the Environmental Resilience Institute has been reaching out to people across Indiana, trying to share the impacts of environmental change while developing partnerships with communities to implement programs and events while working for research-informed solutions.

The webinar is just one of the many ways the Environmental Resilience Institute has been reaching out to people across Indiana, trying to share the impacts of environmental change while developing partnerships with communities to implement programs and events while working for research-informed solutions.

Another Earth Day event the institute will host is a live session of its In This Climate podcast about redesigning food systems that will be 3:30-4:30 p.m. Thursday on Facebook Live. The podcast will be hosted will discuss soil, food sovereignty, agrarian political economy and methods of distribution.

“We have a broad picture of outreach,” Hines said, adding that much of the institute’s work will be featured this week. “It will be a busy week for us.”

The 13 heroes highlight much of the work the institute has been working to accomplish. “From farms, to suburbs, to urban neighborhoods, everywhere you look you find people working to make Indiana a healthier, more environmentally sustainable place to live,” said ERI Director Janet McCabe, in a news release about the Hoosier Resilience Heroes.

The honorees include:

• Angel-Hannah Akinleye, a senior at Riverside High School in Indianapolis, who leads an initiative to promote Indiana high school journalism that focuses on climate change and other environmental challenges.

• Ethan Bledsoe, a junior at West Lafayette Junior-Senior High School, who has helped organize youth in West Lafayette to pass a climate resolution and developed a campaign to increase climate literacy in his community.

• Phyllis Boyd, the executive director of Groundwork Indy, who has created programming to help youth and adults connect with the natural world and advocated for inclusive green spaces.

• Paula Brooks, a speaker, organizer and activist, who has devoted herself to educating residents, elected leaders, civil servants, and others on environmental justice issues in Indiana.

• Liz Brownlee, a sustainable farmer and conservationist, who is building a network of young farmers committed to making agriculture part of the solution to climate change.

• Miranda Frausto, a student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who lobbied her hometown of Carmel to resolve to address climate change and helped it get started.

• Gregg Keesling, the co-founder and president of RecycleForce, whose company diverts millions of pounds of recyclable materials from landfills each year and helps ex-offenders transition to employment.

• John Mundell, an environmental consultant in Indiana, who has helped the Archdiocese of Indianapolis develop and implement a comprehensive sustainability program for their parishes and schools in central and southern Indiana.

• Jamie Scott, a farmer in northeast Indiana, who has practiced sustainable farming methods for decades and helps showcase their benefits to other farmers.

• Kathy Sipple, a longtime environmental organizer in Northwest Indiana, who spearheaded an effort to get local governments in the region to conduct the first regional-scale greenhouse gas inventory in the state.

• Adam Thada, the director of ecological relationships at The Center at Donaldson, who has contributed to the growth of clean energy and other sustainable initiatives in Marshall County.

• Leslie Webb, the founder of Carmel Green Initiative, who has fostered a network of residents, organizations, and elected officials in her community to work toward a sustainable future.

• Alison Zajdel, a community leader and volunteer, who coordinated Richmond’s push to understand and address the city’s vulnerabilities to climate change.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.