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Young BWCA advocate honored with national award

Nov 02, 2019 06:28AM ● By Editor
Photo: Tower Timberjay

By Keith Vandervort of the Tower Timberjay - November 1, 2019

A youthful advocate for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is the winner of a national award for public-spirited young people. 

Joseph Goldstein, now 18, of Springfield, Ill., was awarded the 2019 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Each year, the Barron Prize celebrates 25 young people from across the United States and Canada who have made a positive difference to people and the environment. Fifteen top winners each receive $10,000 to support their service work or higher education.

Goldstein is no stranger to the Ely area. He founded Kids for the Boundary Waters ( to lead young people in protecting the BWCAW. Goldstein has attempted to raise awareness of the potential threat from sulfide-ore copper mines proposed near the edge of the wilderness. 

Goldstein first fell in love with the Boundary Waters as a six-year-old on a weeklong canoe trip out of Ely. His family has returned every summer – and some winters – for the past 12 years. 

At age 13, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Facing three years of chemotherapy and confinement, he decided to take what he was learning about fighting cancer and use it to fight for the Boundary Waters. He wrote blogs and countless letters, made phone calls, and when treatment allowed, traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers. 

Soon after taking his last chemotherapy pill in 2018, Joseph officially launched Kids for the Boundary Waters. His non-profit organization teaches young people how to advocate – write letters, make phone calls, and follow-up with decision makers. He recently organized the group’s second Fly-In, when 80 kids traveled to the nation’s capital for several days of trainings, meetings, and lobbying. 

“I’ve learned that this work is all about taking the small steps forward,” Goldstein said. “Change happens when you suit up and show up, over and over and over. It may not be enormous, instantaneous change, but many small steps over a long period of time add up.”

The Barron Prize was founded in 2001 by author T. A. Barron and was named for his mother, Gloria Barron. Since then, the prize has awarded more than half a million dollars to hundreds of young people who reflect the great diversity of America. 

“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.”

Goldstein, who is studying at Middlebury College in Vermont, said one of the most visible things his nonprofit does is its “fly-in” to the nation’s capital, putting teen leaders directly in contact with decision-makers, like the U.S. secretaries of agriculture and the interior. The “fly-in” this past June included 80 students.

Goldstein’s nonprofit will use part of the prize money to start an essay contest for students who haven’t traveled to the Boundary Waters because of finances or other circumstances.

He said his almost four years of battling cancer “have definitely been challenging,” but it’s also spurred his activism more intently.

“I came through stronger because of it,” said Goldstein. “You don’t get to choose what happens to you, but you get to choose how you respond to it.”

For more information, visit

The State-Journal Register, Springfield, Ill., contributed to this story.

To read the original story and related reporting, follow this link to the Tower Timberjay website.,1560...


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