WILTON — The Wilton Land Conservation Trust has honored two exceptional students as part of the Wilton High School Academic Awards Program that took place virtually on June 8.

To create a more tangible experience for its award recipients, the land trust held a small ceremony at its Spencer-Rice Preserve to commemorate its awardees and celebrate with their families.

“We’re investing not only in our environment but in our community and its youth,” said David McCarthy, executive director of the land trust.

The ceremony was held at one of the newly created Biodiversity Experimental Stations within the preserve. Just a few feet off of the Norwalk River Valley Trail, this newly enclosed area is home to roughly 500 hyperlocal native plants: the product of a summer internship project envisioned and implemented by land trust interns.

The WLCT Junior Book Award is given to a rising senior that demonstrates outstanding environmental leadership and a commitment to their community. Donna Merrill, the trustee behind the internship program, presented Eli Grass with the Wilton Land Conservation Trust’s 2020 Junior Book Award.

“I am so thrilled to have worked with the recipient of this award,” said Merrill. “Eli has the most infectious enthusiasm.”

“It’s important to get involved with the Wilton Land Conservation Trust,” Eli said, “because you’re doing something good for the environment and your community.”

The E. Dan Cappel Senior Scholarship Award is given to a senior in honor of E. Dan Cappel, a memorable Wilton High School science teacher who was instrumental in protecting the environment in the face of Route 7’s proposed reroute through Wilton. The recipient of this award — in parallel with E. Dan Cappel — demonstrated the willingness to preserve Wilton’s biodiversity and build community.

Land trust president Peter Gaboriault presented Brett Gilman, with the $1,500 scholarship.

“After David met Brett and Eli for the first time, he said to me that it was like conversing with colleagues in graduate school,” Gaboriault said.

“I heard this great quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘hitch your wagon to a star.’” Brett said. So, to make an impact for the town of Wilton, “we worked within the limits of what we had, added to an existing project, and partnered with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut,” he explained.

“These young men have demonstrated leadership, motivation, passion, intelligence, and perseverance to achieve at the highest level early in their lives,” a press release from the land trust said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, WHS internship programs were canceled. However, Brett and Eli were determined to realize their vision for their Biodiversity Experimental Stations and received special permission to conduct their work.

“Their perseverance is encouraging, their commitment to community is inspiring, and we think each is well prepared to lead others and solve environmental problems in their professional careers and service activities.” McCarthy said.

The Wilton Land Conservation Trust is devoted to building community, protecting nature, andpreventing the loss of Wilton’s unique natural, scenic, historical, and recreational values. For information, visit wiltonlandtrust.org.