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High School Senior DREAMS about a Cleaner Environment

United Way of Long Islands The DREAMS for Youth Scholarship Fund is a program that awards grants in the areas of Academics, Community Service, & Enrichment. These grants are awarded to students by students as the DREAMS for Youth Advisory Board, is comprised of grade 7-12 students that work under the guidance of United Way of Long Island Staff. 

When it came to her peers deciding on a worthy scholarship recipient, they quickly saw that Rachel Gladstone full filled all of the requirements needed and more.

Rachel grew up with Caleb Smith State Park as her backyard. This is where the Smithtown High School West senior developed a love for nature at a very early age.

As a member of Girl Scouts Troop Number 295, ready to earn her Gold Award, Rachel was eager to get involved with a large service fundraising project to better her community and its natural areas. She was inspired with an idea upon visiting Sunken Meadow State Park with her high school cross country team. Observing trash cans overflowing with plastic bottles, Rachel recognized that those bottles would end up in landfills, or litter the park landscape and beach. She then began to conceive of a way to raise funds for a large scale recycling program in the park to prevent this from happening.

On June 13th, 2015, she hosted the first ever Sunken Meadow Recycling Project 5K and ½ Mile Fun Run and raised almost $5,000 with over 150 runners and volunteers participating. All funds raised were used to purchase recycling bins for the park. Since 10th grade, Rachel has also been involved in a leadership program called Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). Starting out as a camper, she is now a member of the Youth Committee. The Youth Committee is a group comprised of seven dedicated and influential leaders, chosen out of 300 RYLA participants, who are placed in charge of running RYLA during the member’s senior year. Rachel and the other members of the team will plan all of RYLA events including the Summer RYLA Program, which develops strong communication skills, tolerance towards all people, and higher self- esteem.

Rachel understands that her generation will be the future stewards of our planet and the caretakers of our natural areas and wildlife. She takes this role very seriously. She plans to major in environmental science in college and has dreams of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Her motto is: Nothing is impossible. If you work hard enough and keep your passion alive, dreams can become reality.

About the DREAMS for Youth Scholarship Program

The DREAMS for Youth Scholarship Program grants awards in two areas: 

Academic: Assists with costs associated with educational goals at a college, university, private or vocational school. Applicants must be in grade 12, demonstrate financial need and a commitment to community service. Financial awards range from $1,000 to $5,000.

Enrichment: Assists with costs associated with activities that enrich the soul, body, heart or inspire creativity. Examples may include music, singing, dance, art lessons; computer graphics training; acting, photography, fashion design; specialized summer camps, etc. Funds may be used for enrollment fees, instruments and supplies. Applicants must be in grades 7-12, demonstrate financial need and a commitment to community service. Financial awards range from $100 to $2,500.

Since its inception in 2002, United Way of Long Island has awarded scholarships and/or grants totaling $886,250. The DREAMS for Youth Advisory Board, comprised of 7th graders to college students, works under the guidance of United Way staff to make award decisions.