After earning a prestigious award from his high school, Belvidere resident Brock Bottcher is using the majority of the money to give back to his community, and at the same time learn more about a subject he is interested in –environmental science.

As the Belvidere North High School senior tells it, he was first nominated – then chosen – to receive the Mantle Award at his high school, adding modestly that being selected is based on “scholarship, leadership, character and service.”

Bottcher further explained that several students from each high school (including Belvidere High School) are considered by the faculty, and then the field of candidates is narrowed down to one student to become the Mantle Award recipient.

He said he received $3,000, and the stipulation for the award was that it be used in one of two ways: to benefit the community and/or to further advance his academics.

Bottcher recalled that while he put a third of the money away for college, he decided to use the other two thirds to help with the restoration of the Boone County Conservation District’s (BCCD) Funderburg South Conservation Prairie.

Bottcher said that not only could he help his community, but at the same time, he could learn more about environmental science, adding, “To me, I felt like it [the project] was a good way to do both.”

He said that growing up, he wasn’t that much of an outdoor-type, adding with a chuckle, “I was more of an inside kid.”

However, Bottcher recalled that taking an AP Environmental Science class during his sophomore year sparked an interest.

“I just wanted to be a little more educated,” he related, “…There’s a lot of different focus within environmental science.”

“The Earth is very, very intricate and complex; it’s just very beautiful,” Bottcher commented.

He mentioned how being in cross country and track during his freshman year also helped him become more interested in the outdoors and environment around him.

Bottcher said that with the help of the BCCD, he chose the Funderburg South Conservation Prairie for his project, with the idea of purchasing seeds to distribute and hopefully get donations in return, to be used to purchase more seeds for the prairie site.

According to Mark Freedlund, BCCD program support coordinator, the conservation district acquired the land in July of 2021, and is “going through the process” of restoring the area to a prairie/native habitat, with a trailhead and walking/bike path.

“The location where the seeds will be used to restore the prairie is the 27-acre area between Poplar Grove Road and the Route 20 Bypass,” he related.

Bottcher purchased enough seeds to make up 250 packets, each containing milkweed, wild bergamot and black-eyed Susan, then painstakingly sorted out all the seeds to make sure the packets contained one-third each of the three types of seeds.

“They [the conservation district] helped me out with that, too,” Bottcher continued, in terms of what types of seeds would benefit pollinators and also be an asset to the Funderburg South Conservation Prairie site.

He chose the Buchanan Street Stroll, held on Sunday, Aug. 20, to hand out the seed packets, in part because “the timing just lined up really well.”

Bottcher later said he gave away about 75 seed packets and raised $97, adding, “We are currently coming up with another plan to hand out more and hopefully raise more money.”

“We were just thrilled,” Freedlund said upon learning that the teen chose the BCCD for his project. “We were so excited he wanted to help restore this area.”

“I was really impressed with him and his willingness to do this,” the coordinator added.

Bottcher said he is still deciding on what he wants to study after high school, but has his sights set on attending either the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

When asked if he plans to study environmental science, he responded, “Environmental science is a very broad term,” so he has not decided on any specific area of interest as of yet.

In the meantime, in handing out seeds to the public, the high school senior wants to “give people the power to plant those seeds in their own yard … encourage them to have the passion for it [conservation] themselves.”

To make a donation to the conservation district, visit, and click on the donation link. Follow the prompts to specify a donation to the prairie site.

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