CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last week, 16-year-old Rachel Pence won a national Earth Day competition for her project to design affordable T-shirts and raise money for endangered species.
The Earth Day 2013 Award, funded by the National Society of High School Scholars, honors 10 high school students who have acted as environmental stewards for their communities.
Pence first stumbled across the idea for her project last spring while watching Whale Wars, an Animal Plant TV show about whalers off the coast of Antarctica.
While watching the program, she started to wonder why people no longer wore "Save the Whales" shirts. She spent the next few days searching online for clothing that highlights how people can protect endangered animals and the environment.
But she returned empty-handed. She had only been able to find expensive shirts that required a hefty $50 donation.
Pence decided that she could create cheaper shirts to raise money for animal protection.
"I've always loved animals and helping them," Pence said. "I wanted to do something for them."
Rachel has always had a natural love for animals, said her mother, Lisa Pence.
"So many young girls love animals, so many want to be veterinarians," Lisa Pence said. "She was just a typical young girl like that."
One day, a retired coal miner stopped by the bookstore where Lisa Pence works and mentioned that he had a fabric printer for sale.
"It just worked out perfectly," Lisa Pence said.
The family bought the equipment and Rachel began to create her shirts.
She created six original patterns. For the front, she designed a simple outline of an endangered animal like a rhinoceros, whale, sea turtle, or elephant. On the back, she printed information about how to protect that animal.