Lily Kay. Photo courtesy of Action for Nature

A 10-year-old neighbor who inspired the state law granting free state park access to Texas students has been named an International Young Eco-Hero, an international award that recognizes youth for their initiatives aimed at tackling environmental challenges.

Lily Kay received honorable mention in the 8- to 12-year-old age category for her project, Free Texas State Parks for Fifth-Graders.

Lily liked visiting free federal parks so much that she wrote GOP Rep. Morgan Meyer in 2019 and asked him to file legislation that would allow Texas fifth-graders to enter state parks at no cost. She testified before the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism committee and the Senate Water and Rural Affairs committee.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law June 14, 2019.

Lily plans on asking for the original bill to be introduced again next year to include “all children under 16 and up to three accompanying adults or an entire car.” Eventually, she would like all states to allow grade-school students to explore their state parks for free.

“Kids and people of any age can make a difference,” Lily said in a statement. “Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. Never stop trying, even if you get discouraged, scared or things get hard. Dream big.”

Lily is one of 17 young environmental activists from around the world who received the award from Action for Nature, an international nonprofit that encourages young people to take action to better the environment. A panel of judges, including experts in environmental science, biology and education, choose the winners each year.

“Kids like Lily have shown that the next generation is refusing to simply stand on the sidelines,” said Beryl Kay, president of Action for Nature. “Young activists like Lily are shaping the world around them and inspiring other young people to take action to protect our Earth.”

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