PHARR - The National Wildlife Refuge Association recently named Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD's Landscape & Wildlife Habitat Specialist Allen Williams as the National Wildlife Refuge System Advocate of the Year.  

Williams has been PSJA ISD's lead in ensuring native habitats are planted on school grounds and students are able to  have hands-on knowledge of the importance of being environmentally responsible. 

Through a partnership with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Learning Landscapes Collaborative, Williams has also led a movement across multiple school districts in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas to connect youth to nature and more specifically to the Santa Ana National Refuge. In a time when lack of relevancy is as great a threat as environmental pressures to National Wildlife Refuges across the country, Williams is a true advocate dedicated to furthering the mission of the NWRS locally.  

Williams has been instrumental at implementing the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge's Learning Landscapes Program, which has led to the creation of beautiful native habitat gardens in PSJA ISD schools. 

“We are thrilled to present Allen Williams with our Refuge Advocate Award,” said Geoffrey Haskett, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “Through his work connecting local schools with the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Mr. Williams has reached out to the entire community and garnered the support of parents, teachers, principals, and needless to say, students, by sharing his expertise and enthusiasm.”  

With the direct assistance of Williams, the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge has engaged hundreds of teachers and thousands of students in environmental education and creating habitat in the urban environment. Consequently, this has led to an increase in visitation of local visitors to the Refuge. It has also led to more partnerships with other school districts and even entire cities to develop valuable habitat where there had been empty space. With advocates like Williams, the Refuge continues to advance its conservation mission through community engagement.  

"Our partnership with Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, has been an incredible success thanks to his leadership and support," Dr. Daniel King, PSJA Superintendent said. "Our students are actively engaging in environmental stewardship practices and thanks to this work, we had the honor to welcome Former First Lady Laura Bush to one of our schools recently, to recognize these efforts."

Williams has engaged students to plant native habitat on school grounds and works closely with PSJA's Science Department to ensure students do routine activities and lessons utilizing their outside classrooms. 

He will be presented with his award on February 27, 2019, at the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s Annual Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C.