Two Catholic high grads earn statewide environmental scholarship

SOMERVILLE -- Students from Malden Catholic High School and Xaverian Brothers High School were among eight high school graduates who received the Henry David Thoreau Foundation Scholarship this year.

Charles J. Dilman, a graduate of Malden Catholic High School, and Michael A. Parent, a graduate of Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, were each chosen to receive the $26,000 scholarship.

Named for author and naturalist Henry David Thoreau, the scholarship is given out annually to eight high school seniors in Massachusetts who plan to study environment-related fields.

"We look for leadership qualities, and students who have shown an interest in the environment. And we take a very broad view of what 'the environment' can mean," Jackie Miller, senior administrator for the foundation, said in a Sept. 9 interview.

According to a profile provided by the Thoreau Foundation, Dilman developed his interest in environmental studies through his participation in scouting. His assistant scoutmaster Julie Lambert taught them about geology, botany, and wildlife as they hiked the Middlesex Fells Reservation trails. Dilman went on to learn more through his school's AP Capstone program and STEM fairs, where he studied renewable energy technologies such as wind and biofuel. Dilman plans to major in agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Parent was inspired by reading "Finding the Mother Tree" by forest ecologist Suzanne Simard, and by the encouragement of his environmental science teacher, T.J. Manning. With Manning's support, Parent built an aquaponic system, growing plants and raising fish with the help of beneficial bacteria, to learn about loop systems and sustainable food production. He intends to study environmental science at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

In addition to the scholarships, the Thoreau Foundation also gives out stipends for students doing internships, as well as grants for colleges and universities to work with undergraduates on environment-related projects. They also foster a network of students and graduates so that older scholarship recipients can help new recipients in their studies and their careers. When scholarship recipients graduate from college, they become members of the Henry David Thoreau Society for the Environment.

Past recipients of the Thoreau Scholarship have gone on to become successful authors, engineers, science teachers, college professors, and entrepreneurs.

"They're doing some pretty amazing things," Miller said.