Liepins’ pollinator advocacy gets national buzz
November 10, 2017
Bees are thick in the meadow, a tuneful addition to the summer air. They move as if to unseen instructions, to unheard music, that sends their tiny feet scurrying over hexagons of wax. Their wings glimmer like the surface of ruffled ice, reflecting the bright August sunlight. Together they make more than honey: they make a community, serve as pollinator to flowers, and sting the arms of running children sometimes more than once. However, as the population of some species has declined by up to 96% since 2010, there are fewer bees to send frenzied people running away from picnics.
From school project to non-profit
In order to mitigate the effects of the dying bee population, ninth grader Nikolas Liepins has been advocating for their preservation since the beginning of middle school by making bee houses and even creating his own organization. After transferring to St. Paul Academy and Summit School in seventh grade, the science curriculum helped ignite his drive to help bees. During the school year of 2016-2017, First Lego League (FLL), a program that applies STEM to solving a real world problem, was advertised at SPA. Liepins realized this would be the perfect opportunity to engage and encourage the community to help save bees and be active in it too.
“Once FLL came along with the theme of Animal Allies, I determined that it was my chance to do my part to help save the rapidly declining bee population,” Liepins said.
Starting with the goal of helping honey bees, Liepins realized native bees received less attention, but needed just as much aid.
“The idea originally had to do with honeybees and Colony Collapse Disorder, though it was noted that so many organizations and groups were already focused on honeybees, with very few focused on native bees.Through FLL, Bee Kind MN was founded and utilized as the project portion of the FLL competition,” he said.
Liepins didn’t stop there.
“After the season ended, it became a fully separate organization from the school. We have since incorporated and registered as an official 501c3 nonprofit organization officially known as Bee Kind MN, Inc.”
At age 14, as can be assumed, managing a full fledged organization is no easy task. He was persistent and driven, dedicating a significant portion of time outside to help his organization expand.
“I dedicate a lot of time to this because I am extremely passionate about it. From late nights responding to emails to long days at awesome events, it takes a lot of determination, hard work and dedication to run and maintain this organization,” Liepins said.
Liepins age has not stopped him from drawing attention from big companies and gaining their support.
“From the University of Minnesota to Target Center and 3M, I have received a great wealth of knowledge and support,” Liepins said.
Youngest ‘Pollinator Advocate’ recipient in history
Liepins work has also received a national audience. This year, he became the youngest recipient of the Pollinator Advocate Award for the USA, and the first from Minnesota. The award is given by North American Pollinator Protection Campaign to individuals who have made significant contributions to the pollinator world. He competed against the most number of participants in history.
“As for competition for the award, this year, reportedly, had the most nominees in the history of the award,which was first awarded in 2006. I am not sure as to what the other projects were, though I am extremely grateful and honored to receive this award,” Liepins said.
Liepins has many goals and ideas for the future of his organization.
“For further development, I am continuously expanding the efforts, programs, and communications to reach as many people as possible. The plan for the future is to continue educating people of all ages, especially kids, about the importance of native bees, what native bees are, and their differences from honeybees. In addition to that though, I see more bee houses being registered, more partnerships being formed, less fear of bees, and overall, more informed communications around this topic due to our efforts,” Liepins said.
Liepin’s organization envision a future in which meadows of buzzing bees are preserved and thriving. With his advocacy and determination, such a future does not seem so unlikely now.