If you are graduating from high school and have a real passion for the environment and have taken steps to show the world just how much you care, Earth Day Canada might just have something special for you.

Earth Day Canada (EDC) is currently seeking graduating high school students as applicants for its Toyota Earth Day Scholarship Program, which recognizes 20 students from across Canada every year by giving them $5000 towards their education.

“We really wanted to develop some strong environmental leaders across the country and the thing that sets our scholarship program apart is that even though it is an environmental scholarship program, we will provide funds to any graduating high school student, regardless as to where they chose to go on for their post-secondary school education,” said EDC president Jed Goldberg.

In awarding students scholarships to go into the fields of their choice, Goldberg said EDC can then develop environmental leaders in every sector by sustaining their opportunity to pursue an education.

“We already know that they have a strong passion for the environment and our feeling is if we are able to give them a little leg up in developing their education and their work opportunities, they will continue their environmental work. This means we will have another leader out there who may be in nursing or maybe in a vocational school and that is what we need,” said Goldberg.

In the last eight years, EDC, in conjunction with Toyota Canada and the Toyota Canada Foundation, has awarded 120 students with $600,000 in scholarships and the scholarship has become the best-recognized environmental entrance scholarship in the country.

The kinds of students that the program is looking for are those who have done some substantial environmental work in their communities. By that token, the work could be anything that the students have done within their own school or neighbourhoods, like working with younger children or being a leader in developing some new environmental program. Or it could be any other kind of work for the environment that they have done.

To qualify for the award, the student needs to be graduating from high school and going on to an accredited post-secondary school or institution. Students only need to fill out the application on EDC’s website and then provide the appropriate documentation.

If the student is one of the lucky 20 selected, EDC will then send the $5000 to the institution that the student will be attending to go towards their education in any capacity, provided that it’s paid for through the school. Recipients can use this award to go towards their tuition, residence fees, and books or even for the tools they might require for a vocational course.

One thing to keep in mind is just because a student lives in an urban setting, it doesn’t mean that they would automatically be more favoured to receive the scholarship over a student from a rural location. Many students from remote areas have received scholarships in the past.

“We have given out tons of awards to people from small communities and we really encourage people from remote communities to apply because it’s probably more difficult for those students to get scholarships and recognition for the work they have done,” said Goldberg.

In that respect, Goldberg said he would be “absolutely thrilled” to see a student from one of the Aboriginal communities serviced by this magazine be honoured with the award this year.

Of course, this specific scholarship isn’t the only kind of fund for the environment available to individuals through EDC. There is a bevy of different kinds of funds that individuals can apply for to take action on the environment in their communities. There are also awards available for individuals of all age groups who have made significant contributions to preserving the environment in their communities as well as information on what people can do and educational materials that are available, through Earth Day’s various programs and services.

To apply for the Toyota Earth Day Scholarship Program get your application in by January 31, 2011. Applications for this award and others are available at: www.earthday.ca/pub.