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Westchester Student Wins Young Heroes National Award

White Plains student Xerxes Libsch has been recognized for his conservation work at Muscoot Farm.
White Plains student Xerxes Libsch has been recognized for his conservation work at Muscoot Farm. Photo Credit: Submitted

A teenager from White Plains is the winner of a national award for the work his did at a farm in Somers.

Xerxes Libsch, 17, has won a Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.

The award celebrates 25 inspiring, public-spirited youth from across North America who have made a significant positive difference to people and the planet.

The top 15 winners each receive a $5,000 cash award to support their service work or higher education.

"My vision for the future is having a genuine purpose and doing something that I believe in," Libsch said. "For me, that stems from the simple but special moment of connection that comes with helping others and the environment."

Libsch led a four-year project to mitigate water contamination caused by a farm's animal waste leaching into the public reservoir system. He overhauled the farm's vast gutter and sewer network to redirect two tons of manure each year.

His work at Muscoot Farm -- a 777-acre county-run farm in Somers, populated by rare breeds of cows, pigs and chickens -- also included clearing entire fields of invasive plants and protecting native bird species.

He and his team of 125 volunteers also created a quarter-mile educational nature trail and constructed a hands-on environmental learning center to serve the farm's 135,000 visitors each year. His project provides summer camp children and visitors with opportunities to better understand topics such as soil and water conservation and invasive species control.

Libsch first came to love Muscoot Farm as a young summer camper there. One day, during a downpour, he saw massive amounts of manure washing into a nearby stream. He followed the stream to a river and soon learned the river fed into the public reservoir system.

As he began mapping out a way to solve the problem, Libsch made numerous phone calls and asked local lumber stores to donate materials. Groups including the EPA and Audubon Society also lent their expertise and support.

In the end, he completed an estimated $60,000-70,000 project entirely on a donation basis, including 2,600 volunteer man-hours.

Libsch was also awarded a William T. Hornaday Conservation Medal, given to just 10 Boy Scouts each year, for this work.

The Barron Prize was founded in 2001 by author T.A. Barron and named for his mother, Gloria Barron. Each year's 25 Barron Prize young heroes are as diverse as their service projects. They are female and male, urban and rural, from many races and backgrounds.

"Nothing is more inspiring than stories about heroic people who have truly made a difference to the world," Barron said. "And we need our heroes today more than ever. Not celebrities, but heroes -- people whose character can inspire us all. That is the purpose of the Gloria Barron Prize: to shine the spotlight on these amazing young people so that their stories will inspire others."

For more information, visit the prize's website. Applications for the 2017 prize will be accepted beginning Jan. 2.

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