SUNY Sullivan Student Receives Spark Award

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Each year, Sullivan Renaissance selects one individual who is seen as “making a difference” in the community and helping germinate volunteerism to receive their “Spark Award”. This year, the award went to SUNY Sullivan student Iris Fen Gillingham.

Iris Fen Gillingham

Seventeen year old Iris Fen Gillingham has been raised and homeschooled on her family’s farm in the Catskills of New York. She is an artist and independent thinker. She loves history and is passionate about her Celtic heritage through Irish music and dance and Scottish Gaelic language. Iris works on her family’s farm and raises heritage breeds of sheep. She was a journalist for the local newspaper, Manor Ink. Iris served on the Shandelee Music Festival’s youth advisory board, was involved will Project Identity at Bethel Woods, and performed with NACL theater in The Weather Project. She has gained experience speaking and testifying about protecting the air and water that she loves. At the age of 12, Iris was one of 4 youths to speak to the Delaware River Basin Commission asking for a moratorium on fracking.

Most notably, Iris is a member of the Earth Guardians RYSE Youth Council, where she collaborates with 17 other young people from around North America to speak for her generation about Environmental, Climate and Social Justice issues. This leads to her travels around the country meeting with other organizations, speaking at conferences and leading workshops on youth engagement and sustainability. She serves as the Regional Youth Director for Earth Guardians New York. Iris is currently attending SUNY Sullivan and has started an Earth Guardians SUNY Sullivan crew where she is working with youth on campus to lift up their voices in the greater community. Iris believes that we live in a lime when we need to question our accepted systems and status quo. It is our responsibility to imagine a sustainable and just world and by working together, using our creativity, we can build it!