Brower Youth Awards

Susette Onate

Hialeah, FL

Fostering stewardship through a native butterfly garden

Susette Onate was upset when developers for a shopping center bought a unique plot of rare pine rocklands habitat— a refuge for several endangered butterfly species — near her home in Hialeah, FL. To make up for the habitat loss, she turned her attention to a neglected butterfly garden at her Miami-Dade County high school in Florida.

The garden, which had been planted with non-native plants, had been left untended for years and failed to attract either butterflies or students. Onate teamed up with her National Honor Society peers and began renovating the garden, working with a landscaper and local business to acquire native plants that would attract butterflies and other insects. The school administration showed little interest in the project, but Onate worked on, undeterred. Soon, the revitalized garden became popular among students as well as teachers, who began to utilize it for lessons. Onate is now teaming up with the mayor of Hialeah to open community gardens around the city that can serve as urban sanctuaries for endangered butterfly species.