Congratulations to the 2023 Child Health Advocate & NOW Youth Leadership Award Winners!

This celebration honors advocates for their leadership on behalf of children's environmental health, equity, and climate action and justice. 

Policy Awardee
Nathaniel Smith- Founder and Chief Equity Officer, Partnership for Southern Equity

Nathaniel Smith is the founder and Chief Equity Officer of the Atlanta-based Partnership for Southern Equity. A child of Southern Freedom Movement Activists, Smith works to advance racial equity through an equity agenda, which advances just outcomes that are sensitive to the needs and circumstances of communities – erasing barriers to success and creating the conditions that enable just and fair inclusion into a society in which all people can participate, prosper and reach their full potential.

Under Smith’s leadership, PSE created the South’s first equity-mapping tool, the Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas and led a coalition of diverse stakeholders to support a $13 million transit referendum that expanded MARTA into a new county for the first time in 45 years. Through its COVID-19 Rapid Relief Fund, PSE distributed more than $500,000 to more than 30 organizations because of the initial investment of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and the United Way of Greater Atlanta.

Smith’s leadership was instrumental in partnering with several organizations to create the Justice40Accelerator, designed to provide organizations with innovative front-line community climate projects the assistance to better position them to pursue and win federal funding.

Smith’s accomplishments include numerous awards and distinctions, including being named an inaugural recipient of Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builders: Racial Equality award, and being named co-chair of the Drawdown Georgia Leadership Council, which addresses climate change in Georgia through the intersection of climate and equity.

Arts/Media Awardee
Kristina Marusic- Award winning journalist, Environmental Health News, and Author of New War on Cancer

Kristina Marusic is the author of "A New War on Cancer: The Unlikely Heroes Revolutionizing Prevention," which was published by Island Press in 2023. She is also an award-winning journalist at Environmental Health News, an independent news outlet published by Environmental Health Sciences. She holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from the University of San Francisco, and her personal essays and reporting have been published by outlets like CNN, Slate, Vice, Women's Health, The Washington Post, MTV News, The Advocate, and Bustle, among others. Kristina lives in Pittsburgh with her partner of ten years, Michael, and the cutest dog in the world, Mochi.

Science Awardee
Brenda Eskenazi- Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley School of Public Health & Director, Center for Environmental Research and Community Health (CERCH) 

The Distinguished Jennifer and Brian Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Maternal and Child  Health and Epidemiology at UC Berkeley and the Director of the Center for Environmental Research and Community Health (CERCH). She is a neuropsychologist and epidemiologist whose long-standing research interest has been the effects of toxicants including lead, solvents, environmental tobacco smoke, dioxin, and pesticides on human reproduction (both male and female) and child development.


Community Awardee
Donele Wilkins- Chief Executive Officer, Green Door Initiative

Donele Wilkins is the Chief Executive Officer of the Green Door Initiative, a nonprofit organization promoting environmental justice in Michigan.

She is a sought-after public speaker, and a recipient of many awards, including most recently being named an Innovator with the Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

For more than two decades, Wilkins has led local movements for environmental justice, played a key role in developing the Michigan’s Environmental Justice Policy, launched the city’s first green jobs training program, advocated for citizen involvement in public policies and citizen science, and placed environmental stewardship on the agenda of community leaders and decision makers.

NOW Youth Leadership Awardee
Manu Onteeru- student, Dartmouth College & Founder, Project Mislead

Manu Onteeru is a senior at Dartmouth College, studying environmental biology, engineering, and global health. As an advocate for environmental health, he completes environmental epidemiology research with Professor Megan Romano's lab at the Geisel School of Medicine, studying per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and their impact on human health. He also hopes to better understand the influence of lead and heavy metals on prenatal development. His work includes published collaborations with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Sciences. At Dartmouth, he is an executive member of the Council on Student Organizations, the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault, and the Greek Leadership Council. He is the recipient of the 2021 American Youth Policy Forum Samuel Halperin Youth Public Service Award and the 2020 Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership Bowl.

Celebrate, learn from, and engage with this year's awardees:

Panel Discussion:

Date & Time: October 2, 2:30-3:30 pm ET
Location: Virtual
Description: Tune in to this insightful and inspiring conversation with leaders in children's environmental health, equity, and climate action and justice. CEHN’s Executive Director, Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, MPH is honored to moderate the discussion

Awards Reception:

Date & Time: October 12, 5:30-9 pm ET
Location: 901 E Street NW Washington, DC 20004
Description: The evening will begin with a networking and community-building focused reception with food and drink, followed by a ceremony honoring these incredible child health advocates.

About the Awards:

The Child Health Advocate Awards honor outstanding children's environmental health leaders (age 22 and up) in Policy, Science, Community, Business, and Arts/Media. These child health champions have gone above and beyond to create systemic change, protecting children from environmental hazards.

The NOW  Youth Leadership Award was created as part of the Children’s Environmental Health Network’s 20th-anniversary celebration in 2012, in honor of Executive Director Nsedu Obot Witherspoon. This award honors a young person who has demonstrated exceptional environmental health leadership--protecting human health, especially of our most vulnerable populations.

You can view our previous award recipients here.

About the Children's Environmental Health Day (CEH Day):

Focused on equity and action, CEH Day is celebrated the second Thursday of each October with the goals of raising the visibility of children’s health issues, celebrating successes in the field, sharing exciting new initiatives, and discussing new challenges and the road ahead.