← Back to Stories

Amara Ifeji: Youth Activist

Tim McCreight
May 4, 2021
Amara Ifeji was recently named a National Geographic Young Explorer, a prestigious group of 24 young activists from around the world who have been recognized for their leadership in environmental advocacy. She won Best in Category at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair and first place in her category at the Maine State Science Fair. And did I mention that she is 19 years old?

Amara’s family moved to the United States from Nigeria when she was 3 years old, settling in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. Later the family relocated to Bangor and it was there that she discovered her love of science. At 16, Amara joined the Maine Environmental Changemakers Network, a program that brings like-minded young people together. In high school she was president of the Stormwater Management and Research Team, conducting field research on runoff (sewers). Inspired by the discovery of lead in her school’s drinking fountains, her personal research focused on using plants and fungi to remove heavy metals from water.

A high school field trip proved to be a seminal experience for the budding scientist. Amara quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a passion for environmental stewardship. Her strong commitment to scientific research and environmental justice was soon linked to social advocacy, a third element that has led to where she is today.

As she says, “I began to learn about the world’s environmental issues through a science-based lens. But it wasn’t until I attended the Maine Environmental Changemakers Fall Gathering in 2018 that I began to immerse myself in the outdoors. My perspective shifted from a science-based one to a social one.”

Amara was named to the “30 Under 30” Class of 2020 by the North American Association of Environmental Education, again placing her in a network of young leaders who combine their scientific skills, love of nature and commitment to social justice to advocate for enlightened environmental policies.

Amara is currently a freshman at Northeastern University in Boston. In a recent phone interview, she admitted that her first year of college wasn’t exactly what she’d expected because she’d spent the fall semester studying remotely from home. When we spoke, she had relocated to a dorm at Northeastern, but classes were not yet being held in person. Undaunted, she was cheerful and looking forward to exploring the city and making new friends when circumstances allow. In the meantime she is applying herself to a major in Environmental Studies and International Affairs with a minor in Law and Public Policy.

Amara Ifeji will be speaking as part of Harpswell Heritage Land Trust’s Stories of Change webinar series. Her free presentation, “Promoting Equity and Inclusion in the Environmental Movement,” will take place on Monday, May 10 from 5-6 p.m. via Zoom. Click here to register.