Horton received the award created by the Partnership for a Green City—a collaboration of the University of Louisville, Louisville Metro Government, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) and Jefferson Community & Technical College (JCTC). The award honors Riehm, a former Louisville deputy mayor and a lifelong advocate of environmental and public partnership initiatives who died of cancer in 2008.

“Our collective goal is to make Louisville a greener and truly sustainable city,” said Mayor Greg Fischer. “With strong public/private partnerships and innovative educators and leaders like Darleen Horton leading the way, we will accomplish that goal.”

As the coordinator of Cane Run Elementary’s Environmental Magnet Program, Horton has led environmental clubs and “green teams”— groups of students focused on reducing the carbon footprint of their school, their families and themselves. Last year, Cane Run’s Green Team won the National Rookie School of the Year Award from the National Energy Education Development group. Horton also leads the Recycling and Food Composting programs at Cane Run.

Horton presents professional-development sessions to embed environmental science, environmental literacy and environmental responsibility across the curriculum for local school, district, state and national educators. Her Peace Garden Program at Cane Run Elementary was one of the international recipients of the Hunger to Hope Award presented by Yum! Brands.

I have a passion for teaching and the environment, Horton said. I believe growing a love for nature and the environment will grow a sustainable future.

UofL Provost Shirley Willihnganz praised Horton and Cane Run Elementary’s leaders and students for their school’s impressive gardens, vegetable beds and energy-saving classrooms, and noted that UofL has implemented similar sustainability programs.

“We tell prospective students that Louisville is a great place to study, play, and live, in part because it’s a ‘green’ city,” said UofL president James Ramsey. “Darleen Horton exemplifies our city’s commitment to protecting and enhancing the environment.”

Horton’s creativity and innovation shine through with the school’s outdoor classroom. Its many features include a pond, multiple theme gardens, sitting areas, a composting area, a discovery zone, a fossil bed, a force and motion station, and a bird feeding area.

“Darleen instills environmental concern with children just like Joan Riehm did with adults as she served her beloved hometown,” said Brent Fryrear, director of the Partnership for a Green City. “Darleen is a true sustainability champion, and she is committed to making students the best they can be.” 

The Riehm Award recognizes a person or group that leads environmental sustainability efforts in the community. It is presented yearly and includes a $500 cash award. The first award was presented in 2010 to Larry Owsley of UofL. The 2011 award went to Mike Mulheirn of the JCPS. Louisville Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh received the 2012 award, and Pamela Dumm from JCTC received the award in 2013.

The Partnership for a Green City is the first of its kind in the country and represents a collaborative effort to improve sustainability internally and in the community by four of Louisville’s largest public entities: Louisville Metro Government, UofL, JCPS and JCTC. 

Together, the partner agencies employ over 27,500 people, enroll 135,000 students, own more than 531 buildings, operate and maintain 7,000 vehicles and manage 25,135 acres of land in Louisville. Through the coordination of efforts and cooperation, the Partnership has been able to realize real results that will have a long-term impact on the health, education and well-being of our citizens while improving and institutionalizing environmental practices within the organizations themselves.