Young Change Makers: Why and How Anna DeVolld of Promote Our Pollinators Is Helping To Change Our World

Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine
Published in
12 min readOct 9, 2022


I wish I had known how much this program would resonate with kids! Every time I’ve gone into schools to give Plant-and-Take Presentations, the students have been incredibly excited and enthusiastic about helping their pollinators, and I frequently get updates on how their pollinator packs are doing over email and Facebook. They are by far my favorite audience, and I love that I’m able to inspire them to be their own change-makers through my program.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anna DeVolld.

Anna is a high school senior from Soldotna, Alaska. She created an internationally award-winning environmental program called P.O.P. — Promote Our Pollinators. She is also a winner of the 2022 Barron Prize for Young Heroes.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I am a fourth-generation Alaskan, and I love it here! My family goes camping in Homer, Seward, Portage, and Cooper Landing. We kayak, bike, gold-pan, bird watch, swim, and explore the depths of Kenai Lake with the Underwater Remote-Controlled Vehicle we built. We also enjoy skiing at Alyeska and traveling to different parts of the U.S.!

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

So often, when we talk about a person or program that is “Making a Difference,” we focus on their accomplishments, what changes they’ve been able to make, but we hardly ever think about where those people or programs started. Most world-changing initiatives began with just a few, determined people who were willing to work hard and devote themselves to improving the world around them, even though they had no idea if they would be successful. To me, that’s what “Making a Difference” really means; having the courage to take the first steps towards developing something that you believe has the potential to change the world, and having the determination to push through adversity until you find success.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

P.O.P. is an environmental program designed to educate my community about the importance of pollinators and why their numbers are declining, while providing ways to promote their population growth and inspiring the next generation to be good stewards of our natural resources. I feel so strongly about the importance of this issue that since I created P.O.P. in 2018, I’ve logged over 500 hours of service on its behalf.

My first goal was to educate my community about the importance of pollinators, their decline, and what we can do to help, so I created a flier, activity book, and website. The flier is designed for adults; the activity book is geared towards children. The activity book contains information about pollinators, pollinator-centered activities, and coloring pages to inspire the next generation to be pollinator-aware and to be good stewards of our natural resources. I designed the logo and promotional items like reusable tote bags, buttons, stickers, and plant stakes! All these materials are freely distributed in schools, libraries, businesses and medical offices, and community events. Many environmentally focused stores and non-profits also request P.O.P. goodies to give out to their customers and clients.

I designed “Pollinator Packs” to address pollinator habitat loss. Pollinator Packs are free, six-pack pots that contain six different pollinator-friendly seedlings: the start of a pretty, portable, pollinator garden! They are designed to be placed in urban areas to provide the easy to access food sources that pollinators need at frequent intervals. Since 2018, over 2,000 packs have been planted, grown, and distributed. That’s around 12,000 plants for pollinators!

“Plant-and-Take” presentations are also a large part of the efforts of P.O.P. At these presentations, I deliver a short lesson on pollinators and their importance, why their numbers are declining, and what we can do to help. Then participants plant their own Pollinator Packs to take home and place outside for their pollinators to enjoy! These presentations are well-received in both the public and homeschool communities, senior centers, and community events.

I also developed Curriculum Kits for elementary and middle school classroom teachers based on the P.O.P. concept. This in-class curriculum is comprised of lesson plans for the teacher and a class set of fliers, activity books, Pollinator Pack planting supplies (seeds, six-pack pots, soil, P.O.P. plant tags, and care instructions), buttons, stickers, and reusable tote bags. Through the grants I received, I have been able to make and distribute 25 P.O.P. Curriculum Kits in the past three years. I have also partnered with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to create a Curriculum Kit to loan to teachers for their classrooms.

While certainly a challenge, Covid 19 also provided me the opportunity to assist our teachers as they pivoted to online learning. I created an online class that teachers (and homeschool families) could use as part of their science curriculum. The online class contains lessons about pollinators, educational videos, a quiz on each of the topics, writing prompts, and online and printable activities. I made sure to align the instruction and assignments to our school district’s science and language arts standards, so it’s easy for teachers to use in their distance learning program.

I’ve also worked with the City of Soldotna and City of Kenai to design and install permanent pollinator garden signs in our community spaces! The signs have been made and are installed in 8 pollinator-friendly locations.

I’ve fundraised $5,700.00 to support the cost of growing the Pollinator Packs and assembling and distributing the Curriculum Kits. So far, I’ve received grants from Chipotle/Earth Force, the Awesome Foundation, the Central Peninsula Gardening Club, the City of Soldotna/Economic Development District, and ENSTAR/ Challenger Center of Alaska/ Caring for the Kenai. Several local businesses have shown their support through monetary and in-kind donations; to show my appreciation, I’ve placed their names on the back of my activity books.

Because of P.O.P.’s message and relevance, I have been invited to partner with and present to service organizations, governmental advisory panels, clubs, and non-profits such as the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Resiliency and Advisory Commission.

What began as an idea formed around our kitchen table four years ago has grown into an internationally award-winning program aimed at providing teachers and community members with pollinator-centered educational materials and supplies. While awards are never my goal, they have opened doors and provided platforms to spread my message of pollinator awareness through the news media and politicians including President Trump, Governor Dunleavy, and our members of Congress. These honors include the following: the 2022 International Young Eco-Heroes Award (second place internationally), the 2020 President’s Environmental Youth Award (ten are awarded nationally), the President’s Volunteer Service Award for both 2020 and 2021, the 2022 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes (fifteen are awarded nationally), the Prudential Spirit of Community Award of Excellence (2021), the First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year Award (2021), the Alaska Spirit of Youth Innovator Award (2020), the ACS Summer of Heroes Award (2019), and the 3M/Discovery Education Scientist Challenge State Winner (2019). P.O.P. was also featured in both People Magazine in 2022 and Alaska Parent Magazine in 2021!

Through community presentations, public booths, and classroom and online lessons over the past four years, I have reached approximately 5,000 families with the message to Promote Our Pollinators. My P.O.P. social media account has reached over 20,000 individuals internationally, and that number continues to grow.

As a gardener, I really like planting seeds, so here’s one for you to grow: find something that you’re passionate about, no matter how small, and see how you can use it to change the world.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I’m a gardener, and one day four years ago, I was taking care of my plants when I noticed 4 bumblebees all clumped together on the same sunflower! As the summer went on, I kept noticing all the pollinators that my sunflowers attracted, and that made me curious. What did they do? Why did they like my sunflowers so much? I did some research and discovered how crucial pollinators are to the creation of food and the sustainability of plants. According to the United Nations, Pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of over 75% of our food crops and 90% of flowering plants! Sadly, these amazing creatures’ numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate; The Science Times estimated that about 90% of the total bee population has been completely eradicated due to habitat loss and pesticide use. When I learned that these amazing creatures were in serious danger, I decided to do something about it! So, I sat down at the kitchen table and started to think; how could I help pollinators in my community? The result of that question: P.O.P. — Promote Our Pollinators!

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. We don’t always get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

My family has always been committed to serving our community. Throughout my life, we dedicated time to delivering meals and comfort to families in need, made regular visits to assisted living facilities, and helped maintain our church’s facilities. It was because of these values instilled in me from a young age that four years ago, when I saw a need for pollinator education and environmental action, I decided to step up and do something about it! The result of that decision was P.O.P. — Promote Our Pollinators.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

The first thing I realized was that I needed to start small. When creating a program or organization from scratch, you’re the one developing all of the materials, so it’s best to begin building a foundation before moving on to bigger things. In my case, that meant creating a flier, activity book, website, and logo; then, I was able to use those things as a starting point and stepping stone to developing the Plant-and-Take Presentations, Pollinator Packs, Curriculum Kits, Online Class, Promotional Items, and Pollinator Garden Signs. Had I tried to tackle all of the different components at once, I would have been overwhelmed and probably unsuccessful, but by taking the time to develop my program step-by-step, I was able to accomplish much more in the same amount of time, and the end result was far greater!

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

My former science teacher, Ms. Kimberly Leslie, has been an amazing mentor and cheerleader since I took my first class from her in 7th grade. She was always encouraging me and my fellow students to pursue our interests in STEM, and she was always there to support me. She made an incredible difference in my life, and I hope that in the future, I can help other girls follow their dreams by being the same caring, encouraging, and empowering person that she was for me.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The two main reasons for pollinator decline are habitat loss and pesticide use. We are continually clearing more land to make room for our cities, and this is leaving very few places for pollinators to find food and start a colony. We also damage pollinator populations through pesticide use. When we spray our plants with pesticides like bug and weed killer, most of us don’t think about the negative effects those chemicals have on pollinators, but when they come into direct contact with the pesticide sprays, they die immediately, and when they are exposed to the residue, even worse things can happen. Thankfully, there are a few simple steps we can take to protect and promote our pollinator populations!

I designed “Pollinator Packs” to address pollinator habitat loss. Pollinator Packs are free, six-pack pots that contain six different pollinator-friendly seedlings: the start of a pretty, portable, pollinator garden! They are designed to be placed in urban areas to provide the easy to access food sources that pollinators need at frequent intervals. By planting just one of these packs, community members can help promote their local pollinators. Another way people can help address pollinator decline is by using natural pest control methods like ladybugs instead of chemical pesticides!

Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).

Part of the fun of P.O.P.’s development was figuring out solutions to problems I had never considered; some of my greatest inspirations and ideas were born out of difficulties, like my Online Class which was brought about because of Covid 19 school restrictions. That being said, there are a few things I wish someone had told me when I first started Promote Our Pollinators.

I wish I had known how much this program would resonate with kids! Every time I’ve gone into schools to give Plant-and-Take Presentations, the students have been incredibly excited and enthusiastic about helping their pollinators, and I frequently get updates on how their pollinator packs are doing over email and Facebook. They are by far my favorite audience, and I love that I’m able to inspire them to be their own change-makers through my program.

I also wish someone had told me that the public speaking aspects of P.O.P. would get easier over time! When I first started, I was extremely nervous before every event, and I wondered if it was always going to be that way. However, as I gave more and more presentations, my nerves lessened, and the process became much more enjoyable; I just wish I had known that when P.O.P. began!

Pollinator Packs were one of the first things I created for P.O.P., and they definitely took some trial and error to get right! My first year, I researched all the plants and chose what I considered the best six options for that year’s batch. As they grew, some problems emerged… One didn’t grow well in my area, while another grew too well and swallowed up some of the other flowers! That’s when I realized I’d have to change a few of the flower choices. Since that day, I’ve been fine-tuning the plant choices every year with the goal of finding the best, most successful combination, but I still haven’t created the “Perfect Pack” yet. It would have been nice to know which flowers to use when I started!

When came up with P.O.P., I assumed that everything I did for the program would be very serious, but once I actually started developing content and giving presentations, I realized that my work was fun! I enjoyed the process of creating fliers, designing logos, writing presentations, and teaching students; I would have loved to know how much I’d appreciate the development and distribution of P.O.P. materials.

Lastly, I wish someone had told me how much this P.O.P. would impact my life. As I developed my program, I learned how to advertise on social media, use graphic design, and present with confidence, and I loved every minute of it! It was around this time that I started to seriously consider my career path, and the saying “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life” often came to mind. As I considered my future, I realized that the work I enjoyed doing for P.O.P. was very similar to the work of a communications professional, so I did some research about communications careers, and they sounded perfect for me! So many things I love doing are applicable to a communications career: writing, graphic design, social media advertising, giving presentations, and even photography. Because of my experiences with P.O.P., I will be majoring in Communications next year with the goal of becoming a Public Relations Director for an Alaskan organization, business, or nonprofit.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I believe it is important for youth to be involved in environmental action because we are the generation whose future will be affected by the choices of today. We must stand up and take on the responsibility of shaping that future now, before the decisions have already been made without us, and it’s too late to go back. At first, this will seem difficult, almost impossible, but my advice is to find something you’re passionate about, no matter how small, and see how you can use it to change the world. You’ll be amazed at what a difference you can make.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can learn more through the P.O.P. Facebook page, website, and online class!

Facebook Page:


Online Class:

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!



Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator