2013 Terrific Teen: Michael Brienza
Junior, Charlotte Country Day School
Parents: John and Robin Brienza
Hard-working | Environmentalist | Athletic
When Michael Brienza heard a conservationist talk at the Schiele Museum about bats, he was so moved by the plight of the flying mammals that he was motivated to action. "He made me realize how unfair it is for bats," says Brienza. "They are great for the environment and good for farmers, and they are being killed by people who are afraid of them."
Brienza began his own bat conservation program, raising money to buy bat houses where up to 300 bats can reside. In 2012, he interned as a bat expert at the Charlotte Nature Museum and in return received a $1,000 grant for his program. He has now erected 10 bat houses: nine on the South Carolina coast where his family owns a beach house and one at the Charlotte Nature Museum.
"Michael has always been an active community volunteer, having dedicated more than 400 hours on his two great passions - the health and welfare of our environment, and children in our community," says Brienza's mother, Robin Brienza.
Also a nationally ranked triathlete in his age group, Brienza has used his sports expertise to help coach Special Olympics athletes in track and swimming. He has founded several programs to help the community, including an annual book drive for area YMCA reading programs, and he volunteers regularly at Carolinas Medical Center. Since 2010, he has baked and sold all-natural "Brienza's Bow Wow Biscuits" for dogs at Christmas to raise money for Cookies for Kids' Cancer and pediatric cancer research.
Brienza is an honor student, vice chairman of his school's Honor Council, and has attended courses at Duke and Cornell universities. He has also completed the requirements for the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal.
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Photos: Becca Bond Photography