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Youth Spotlight: Rylee Sharkey

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

Rylee Sharkey has a sure way of energizing you with her call for action!

“Once you enter the world of sustainability, you see it applies to everything, it factors into every aspect of life and impacts everyone. Get involved! See the behind the scenes of the process!”

Rylee speaks passionately about how we cannot ignore the environmental aspect and how humans aren’t separate but very much part of it. It reminded me of this quote by Lady Bird Johnson: “The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.”

Rylee was a key organizer and promoter of the Sustainable Splash, an event culminating her efforts on an environmental awareness project with Valley's Voice (VV). Rylee saw the biggest goals of the event being about accessible outdoor recreation and sustainability, fun and safe river activities for all levels, and collaboration with local partners like Vail Health, Timberline Tours, and The Watershed Council. Sustainable Splash and Rylee are showing us that being environmentally conscious is first of all lots of fun! Learning about it is fun, participating is great fun, connecting with others who are interested is super fun!

Rylee appreciates the opportunities of Valley’s Voice where young people focus on their passion projects. She values the fact that VV opens up resources to her and to the community as a whole. Rylee enjoys VV because everyone is eager to be involved and so enthusiastic and it feels good to be a part of an animated team. It is also a great atmosphere for learning and taking on leadership roles.

Rylee is currently a Junior at EVHS and last year she got involved in an initiative by Walking Mountains called the Youth Environmental Leadership Council. The participants hosted clean ups around the valley and a clothing swap outside of the Youth Closet. These are such simple and powerful ways to help protect the Earth: reduce, reuse and recycle, shop wisely and dedicate efforts to community clean ups.

Have you seen the green tents with the Recycle, Compost and Trash compartments at local events like the Block Party, Youthapalooza, and the Rodeo? They are there thanks to the Zero Waste Team with Walking Mountains and Rylee works on sorting throughout the events and after. Yet another way she role models that taking action is necessary and very doable.

The Eagle Valley High School Green Team is fortunate to have Rylee as its president. The team advocated for and obtained larger size recycling bins thus expanding the school capacity to hold more recycling. They have goals to train teachers, custodians and students about recycling as well as make it easy for everyone. Rylee and the team track differences and educate about commercial versus residential recycling, and make the single stream and dual stream recycling requirements understandable. Rylee and the team share a vision of expanding the Green Team with more volunteer opportunities, recognition at graduation for the members, and starting a tree planting project. She also thinks about the big picture collaboration of the Green Team, the Zero Waste Team and the Valley’s Voice Passion Project about the Environment, because combining efforts means larger impact inside of school and outside of school.

Rylee is committed to obtaining an Associates Degree in Science with emphasis on Environmental Studies by the time she finishes High School. She also has an Internship with Eagle River Watershed Council where she learns about water quality, restorations, and general education about river health. We all need this reminder from her, “Water is complicated, there are intricate laws about it and everyone needs it and should care deeply about it!”

If up to now you missed the part that Rylee is fierce and extremely versatile, let me tell you she has been dancing for the last 5 years and now has chosen rugby as her fall sport!

If you are curious to know how she got to advocate so successfully and accomplish so much it is due to simple truths. It doesn’t feel like work to her, all she does is so true to who she is. She focuses on what she enjoys (sustainability), meeting new people, having meaningful experiences, building things, trying a variety of new things!

Her message for her peers of all ages is: “When in doubt, just try something different! A focus group, a project, a new sport. You might surprise yourself!”

Written by: Tsveti Fuentes, Community Mobilizer at Mountain Youth,

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