Our congratulations to the 2020 Urban Waters Learning Network awardees! These four leaders have been chosen for recognition by the Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN), a partnership of the national nonprofits River Network and Groundwork USA. The Urban Waters Learning Network Awards, sponsored by the US EPA, celebrate significant achievements of individuals who have improved urban waterways and revitalized the neighborhoods around them.
These members exemplify the UWLN’s goal of providing peer-to-peer support, solving challenges through collaboration, and sharing knowledge. “This year’s Urban Waters Learning Network awardees demonstrate the power of strong leadership, mentorship, and collaboration to improve conditions in local communities,” says Adi Nochur, Deputy Director of Capacity Building at Groundwork USA. “We are thrilled that their peers chose to recognize these efforts and we look forward to their continued contributions to the urban waters space.”
Diana Toledo, Leadership Development Director of River Network, adds “More than ever, our communities need visionary leaders that bring a ‘roll up your sleeves and get it done’ attitude to their work. Certainly, our urban waterways need them. This year’s award recipients embody these qualities and put them to work every single day for the benefit of their communities – it is our honor to celebrate their contributions.”
Alicia Lehrer, Signature Award
Alicia Lehrer joined the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC) as Executive Director in March 2008. She holds a BA in Environmental Science from Columbia University and an MS in Natural Resources Science from the University of Rhode Island. Alicia’s work at the WRWC has included spearheading migratory fish passage restoration at the first five dams on the river, working with partners to determine cleanup efforts of the Centredale Manor Superfund site, and leading Woonasquatucket River Greenway expansion, improvement, and maintenance. Alicia joined Clean Water Action’s efforts to establish the RI Green Infrastructure Coalition in 2014 and has remained an active member. This partnership has helped inspire her to create green infrastructure demonstration projects in Olneyville and Elmhurst, and begin to develop larger plans to help make the Woonasquatucket corridor more resilient in the face of climate change. Alicia also serves on the RI Paths to Progress committee, working to establish a network of active transit (biking/walking) paths across RI.
Alicia, and the WRWC have been honored to be recognized for their work with several prestigious awards including:
- Alicia received Rhode Island Clean Water Action’s 2019 “Community Builder of the Year Environmental Champion Award.”
- Kassi Archambault, WRWC’s first Education Director, honored with Clean Water Action’s Emerging Leader Award in 2017.
- Four Ovies (Olneyville neighborhood awards), two in 2016 and two in 2017, for outstanding programming and community engagement in Olneyville.
- Lisa Aurecchia, WRWC Director of Projects, honored with 2016 RI Blueways Award.
- Grow Smart Rhode Island’s 2016 Outstanding Smart Growth Project Award for mobilizing stakeholders to convert waste brownfield sites in Providence’s poorest neighborhood, Olneyville, into park land and the 7 miles of Greenway/Bike Path.
- WRWC’s founder, Jane Sherman, received River Network’s 2014 River Hero Award for bringing new life to the Woonaquatucket River and the neighborhood around it – Olneyville.
Phyllis Boyd, Environmental Justice & Equity Expert Award
Before becoming the Executive Director of Groundwork Indy in August 2015, Phyllis was a landscape architect and urban designer focused on sustainable design and planning and dedicated to working with diverse communities to transform their built environments into meaningful, relevant, and life-enhancing places. After eight years in the field, she decided to transfer her skills and passion for working on community-oriented revitalization projects to the non-profit sector and joined Groundwork Indy. Her experiences during her teen years working on Student Conservation Association trail crews in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico and in Baxter State Park in Maine were transformative. Phyllis holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Indiana University in Bloomington and is a two-time alumna of The University of Texas at Austin where she received her Master of Arts in Botany in 1997 and her Master of Landscape Architecture in 2006.
Alicia Smith, Environmental Justice & Equity Expert Award
Alicia is the proud mother of three. She and her family currently reside in Toledo, Ohio and a proud native of Detroit, Michigan. Alicia is the Community Liaison for Junction Coalition, in Toledo, Ohio. She lives, works and enjoys the Junction community’s natural social environment with neighbors, friends, family, and visitors. Alicia’s passion flows from her belief that all citizens need information to thrive. As such, she works to build the capacity of each family. She believes that Justice work is not limited to the Environment but touches on issues of Social and Economic Justice with the goal of promoting Peace, Public Health and a better quality of life for all citizens. Junction Coalition started as an opportunity to help community help themselves, learning to collaborate with anchor institution and share collective work. During the 2014 Algae Bloom (Outbreak) Junction Coalition was pushed into environmental action. Families were in need of support, information and education not just for the few days of the crisis but a continuum of support and interaction for safe, clean and affordable drinking water.
As a graduate student at the University of Toledo, her doctoral studies focused on the educational development for disenfranchised communities. She has serve the community for over fifteen years as a Restorative Justice (RJ) Facilitator working with inner-city youth, teaching the skill of healing community trauma through listening and critical thinking skills. She works with the Lucas County Juvenile Court and Toledo School District to provide community network services to families based on her social work in public health and water education and advocacy. As a Detroit native, Alicia started her love for youth and education as a Kindergarten teacher for several years later servicing as Principal. Her work with the Catholic Diocese as the Educational Coordinator focused on delinquency prevention, sparking her studies in criminal justice, law and social justice education. Alicia serves on several boards from Healing our Waters Coalition/Equity Committee to the Ohio Energy Table.
Andrea Savage, Youth Leadership Expert Award
Andrea works with both youth and the Spanish speaking community in Southwest Denver & the City of Sheridan to restore healthy urban waterways and organize for environmental and social justice. She holds a BA and MA in Community Education from Goddard College and serves as chair to the Harvey Park Sustainability Team. Andrea has over 10 years experience in community education and environmental justice, including work for the Sierra Club, San Benito Rising, Santa Cruz Water Department, Amigos de las Americas, and Instituto de la Naturaleza y Sociedad de Oaxaca. She lived and worked abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico, for two years.
About the Urban Waters Learning Network
The UWLN is a peer-to-peer network of people and organizations that share practical on-the-ground experiences in order to improve urban waterways and revitalize the neighborhoods around them. Groundwork USA and River Network are partners in coordinating the Learning Network, providing support and opportunities for members to share successes, challenges, and technical resources.
About Groundwork USA
Dedicated to changing places and changing lives, Groundwork USA is a national network of 20 local trusts, engaging local residents, businesses, and government officials to revitalize underserved neighborhoods and transform community liabilities into community assets.
About River Network
River Network is the foremost nonprofit connecting nearly 6,000 water-focused organizations, agencies, businesses, and communities for greater local impact and healthier rivers across the U.S.