Newport Beach teen nominated for Nickelodeon and TIME magazine Kid of the Year award

A Newport Beach teen who’s persuaded more than 120 schools across Orange County to remove plastic straws from their campuses has earned a nomination for the first-ever Nickelodeon and TIME magazine Kid of the Year award.

Concern over straws littering the ocean and beaches — and a viral video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck up its nostril — inspired now ninth-grade Mater Dei student Chloe Mei Espinosa to take her sixth-grade passion project and turn it into a national campaign urging the public to stop using single-use plastic straws.

Chloe Mei Espinosa

Chloe Mei Espinosa, pictured at EarthFest 2019, is among the top 20 nominees for Nickelodeon and TIME’s Kid of the Year. (photo courtesy of skiptheplasticstraw.com)

According to her website, skiptheplasticstraw.com, Espinosa’s original goal was to get 500 people to take a pledge to stop using single-use plastic straws.

Since launching her campaign in April 2018, the young teen has collected nearly 1,500 signatures and has successfully convinced the Newport-Mesa, Capistrano and Saddleback Valley unified school districts to remove plastic straws from all school cafeterias.

In acknowledgment of her efforts, Espinosa’s been recognized as a top-20 finalist for the Nickelodeon and TIME magazine Kid of the Year award.

In a recent interview, Espinosa told the Daily Pilot she’d first received word of her nomination in September but wasn’t sure she’d get farther than that. When she found out she got into the top 50, she was even more surprised.

“I feel so honored to be recognized for my work, and it’s a great opportunity for me to spread my message,” Espinosa told the Pilot. “I want to keep up doing videos and show you can live a sustainable life and it doesn’t have to be hard.”

The top five honorees will be featured in a television special on Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m. PST. Hosted by Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show,” the show will recognize one Kid of the Year, who will be featured in both TIME and TIME for Kids. As part of the program, each of the top five honorees will be offered the chance to work as kid reporters for TIME for Kids, with exclusive access to Nickelodeon events throughout the year.