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HARLEE MIDDLE SCHOOL WINS 3RD PLACE GULF GUARDIAN AWARD STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. ? The Gulf of Mexico Program today presented Harlee Middle School with a third place Gulf Guardian Award for 2004 in the Youth and Education Category for their Science is Cool After School project. The award ceremony was held aboard the Creole Queen Riverboat in New Orleans, La. Harllee Middle School?s "Science is Cool After School? Program of the Boys and Girls Club of Manatee County is funded through several Sarasota Bay National Estuary Program Grants. Students in the Program built and deployed 191 reef balls into North Sarasota Bay. They plan to build 900 more reef balls for Manatee County?s Environmental Management project, ?Under the Dock? Program. In addition to building and deploying reef balls, the students created estuarine habitats in school classrooms, conducted field trips to marine and coastal habitats, became SCUBA certified, and created a reef maintenance team called, ?Reef Rakers." The goal of the ?Science is Cool After School? Program is to give students a chance to make a positive contribution to the community and help them see how science is used daily. The program began with hands-on projects like cleaning up State parks, helping with Keep Manatee Beautiful, and general habitat clean ups. Through the program, students have assisted with local beach clean ups for the past five years. The program also helps with nearly 10 park clean ups and habitat restoration projects each year. The program has grown to about 50 students and has branched out to work with approximately 200 students from the Boys and Girls Club of Manatee County. The program?s coordinator, teacher Rick Smith, and many of his students developed a television program to help students learn about water conservation, habitat loss, reef ball building, and many of the subjects that affect the local ecosystems. The television show reaches about 7,500 people each month. To date, the ?Science is Cool After School? program has provided about 2,500 hours to various environmental organizations, and is constantly seeking funding to create more learning opportunities for students. "The Gulf Guardian Award winners for 2004 are prime examples of collaborative environmental efforts leading to neighborhood solutions that transcend political boundaries,? said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water in Washington, D.C. ?I commend all of the winners for their innovative partnerships, common sense ideas, and hard work. Their efforts are making a difference in protecting and restoring the Gulf of Mexico.? The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. Award entries were received from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. A first, second, and third place award are given each year in six categories ? individual, business, youth and education, nonprofit organizations, government, and partnership efforts. Gulf of Mexico Program Office Director Bryon O. Griffith said, ?This year?s Gulf Guardian Award winners encapsulate the essence of the Gulf of Mexico Program and our efforts to attain environmental solutions in concert with economic growth.? ?Environmental successes are exponential when you bring the resources of many to the table, as the 2004 winners have so successfully demonstrated.? For a list of all the Gulf Guardian Award winners for 2004, visit the Gulf of Mexico Program web site at http://www.epa.gov/gmpo and click on the Gulf Guardian Award button. The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development. Editor?s Note: For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call Terry Hines Smith at 228-688-1159. For more information about the Science is Cool After School Program, contact Rick Smith at 941-755-7036 or 941-920-1003.

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