Jalen Scott, an eight-grader whose research into elevated lead levels in the soil at some Baton Rouge schools secured him an invitation to compete in Africa, has returned from the Golden Climate International Environmental Project Olympiad in Nairobi, Kenya with the top prize for his grade level.
Scott, a student at Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School in Baton Rouge and the only one from the United States selected to compete, was the junior division winner of the Wangari Maathai Grand Award, which is named for the Kenyan environmentalist who in 2004 became the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
“When they called my name as the winner, I got real nervous,” Scott said in a press release sent by the school on Thursday. “My legs started shaking, and I was afraid I couldn’t walk.”
But Scott, who was accompanied to Kenya by his father and science teacher, managed to make it to the stage to accept the grand award.”
“Jalen Scott’s accomplishments are nothing short of amazing and show the world that we are developing some of the best minds in science fields right here in Baton Rouge,” said Mayor-President Melvin L. “Kip” Holden in the press release. “I couldn’t be more proud that his innovative ideas not only benefit current students, but will also help him achieve his own dreams.”
Scott’s 2013 science fair project, which also got him published in an academic journal and allowed him to meet national educational and political leaders, was one of 135 entrants from 31 countries. Kenilworth science teacher Elkhan Akhundov entered Scott’s project, which competed against 24 other entrants from junior-high students.
As a seventh-grader, Scott and Desirae Gardner, then a sixth-grader at Kenilworth, produced similar projects studying soil at 11 local schools, using a hand-held X-ray spectrometer provided by LSU associate professor David Weindorf, a soils specialist with the LSU AgCenter. Scott found lead levels above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency screening limits at four of the schools. Gardner found elevated levels of arsenic at seven schools.