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Honors Pile Up for Monkton Teen - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Honors Pile Up for Monkton Teen

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Courtney Devoid Courtney Devoid

Starksboro, Vermont - April 15, 2009

Wood pellets heated Toby Salas' family's home all winter long.

"It was so nice," he said. "First, we saved a lot of money on fuel, because the pellets are so much cheaper than propane. And we were able to keep the house a lot warmer, too."

Their new pellet stove came courtesy of the Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative, or VSHI. The force behind it -- a high school junior.

"I've always been passionate about helping the environment," said Courtney Devoid, a student at Mt. Abraham Union High School in Bristol. "I feel like we've increased our consumption of fossil fuels ways too much and we really need to change to alternative energy."

So Devoid organized a group to give low-income families a greener, cheaper source of heat.

"We received a grant for $20,000 and have raised about $8,000 on our own," she said. "We've installed six pellet stoves and are going to have a total of fifteen."

The effort is drawing national attention. At a school assembly Wednesday, she was awarded a Prudential Spirit of Community Award -- one of just a hundred awards given nationwide. She got a medallion, a $1,000 prize, and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the award ceremony in May. Her work with VSHI has also earned her the Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence and Pollution Prevention and the President's Call to Service Award.

"It's very exciting," Devoid said. "It's a little overwhelming because you think you're just yourself, doing this project."

It's a project she hopes is helping the planet and helping her neighbors. Toby Salas says getting the pellet stove in his family's home inspired him to join his classmate in VSHI and help other people too.

"It was such a wonderful gift," Salas said. "It's such a great thing."

You can find out more about the Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative at http://www.sustainableheatingvt.org/.

Kate Duffy - WCAX News

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