CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Duke Energy is continuing its commitment to students and teachers with a more than $2.7 million investment in 52 innovative education programs and initiatives across North Carolina.

The 2017 grants, from the Duke Energy Foundation, will enhance educational programs focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and childhood reading proficiency – critical building blocks for student success from kindergarten through their professional careers.

“It is essential that next-generation employees have a strong educational foundation that prepares them for the workforce,” said David Fountain, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president. “Our investments in students and STEM initiatives strengthen the pipeline of highly skilled workers that will lead us to an even smarter future in North Carolina.”

Examples of this year's grant recipients include:, New Hanover County, to provide hands-on environmental education to fifth grade students in New Hanover County.

" is thrilled that Duke Energy is helping again this year to support our environmental education initiatives,” said President and Executive Director Richard Johnson. “Because of this grant, more than 1,200 New Hanover County students will get a chance to visit Masonboro Island Reserve and learn how important its ecosystem is to everyone in North Carolina."



With as many as 75 volunteers preparing for their 10th year of helping clean Masonboro Island following the annual Independence Day festivities, organizers said there is room to join their ranks, as volunteers are still needed for this year’s annual July Fourth cleanup. co-founder and Coastal Reserve Local Advisory Council member Richard Johnson said the cleanup is similar to a military operation, with as much as 5,000 pounds of trash hauled off the island each year. The volunteers’ efforts help keep the island open to visitors year-round. People interested in volunteering can do so through the website at


WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WECT) - What is normally a quiet, clean, pristine barrier island was flooded with thousands of people Wednesday.

"I love it because it's convenient to get to, all of my friends live here, and we have been coming here for years," said partygoer Katie Herring. "It is so fun to be together."

"This is one of the most beautiful islands in North Carolina and 364 days a year, it's pristine," said Richard Johnson with "We have this one party and people were leaving trash so we got together as an organization and decided we would clean it up on the Fourth of July."

As partygoers stepped off the boats, dozens of volunteers handed out trash bags to enforce their pack it in, pack it out policy.

MAKING MEMORIES TO LAST A LIFETIME [by Audrey Holloman for the LUMINA NEWS May 2017]

Another season of the Masonboro Island Explorer program concluded this week, giving nearly 1,600 New Hanover County fifth graders from 18 schools this year a magical day of learning and discovery on the undisturbed, uninhabited barrier island that offers unparalleled access to the region’s nature and wildlife.

Fifth graders learn about coastal ecosystems and how to preserve Masonboro Island [from WECT NEWS May 2015]

An education outreach program is teaching fifth graders about our ecosystems and why it's important to keep our beautiful coasts clean. Your child may soon be involved in one of these "Island Explorer" field trips, too.

Elementary Explorers: Discovering Masonboro Island [from Lumina News - March 2016]

Cherished memories, and maybe even future careers in marine science, are formed on the sands and estuaries of Masonboro Island, thanks to field trips organized by

The nonprofit, founded by Richard Johnson, has an admirable goal of taking every fifth-grader in New Hanover County to explore and learn on Masonboro Island. Field trips for students, their teachers and volunteers begin again for the spring semester in March.

With 600 all-volunteer members, is best known for its red-shirted presence protecting the north end of the island every Fourth of July. Each year since 2009, volunteers haul away and recycle literally tons of discarded party litter after each Independence Day celebration.

The nonprofit's Masonboro Island Explorer (ILX)'s program, begun in 2013 and developed in partnership with North Carolina Coastal Reserve, is a science-based field trip to the uninhabited barrier island lying between Wrightsville and Carolina beaches, east of Wilmington. The protected island is only accessible by boat. active on Fourth of July - [StarNewsOnline - June 24, 2016]

NEW HANOVER COUNTY -- For the seventh straight year, volunteers will be active on Masonboro Island on the Fourth of July. Volunteers monitor activities, hand out trash bags, and assist island visitors with trash removal from the undeveloped barrier island. During the school year, in partnership with the Coastal Reserve and Carolina Ocean Studies, raises funds and coordinates an Island Explorer Program, transporting fifth-graders to Masonboro Island for an interactive scientific-based field trip.


For the sixth consecutive year, volunteers from collected trash on July 4, when the island swells with holiday visitors.

This year, more than 75 volunteers helped clean up 2.87 tons–or 5,740 pounds and four dumpsters full–of trash and recyclables from the island just south of Wrightsville Beach, according to a news release from the nonprofit group.

Trash collected included coolers, chairs, umbrellas and tents that were left behind. Another group of volunteers went back out to the island on July 5 to collect any trash that was left over. The crowd was smaller than expected and “generally well behaved,” according to the nonprofit.


It's 2014 and with your continued support, we're well on our way to another stellar year for Masonboro.Org. We are looking forward to our traditional Masonboro.Org activities, including our spring benefit, the Fourth of July clean-up and our annual volunteer oyster roast. Plus, this year, we're launching a new program: Island Explorers. This newletter edition features a letter from our president, a preview of Island Explorers and a chance for you to get involved!   


The Coastal Reserve examine how and when commercial businesses use Masonboro Island at a recent meeting. Hope Sutton, stewardship coordinator and Southern sites manager for the North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve, said her organization started a dialogue with local businesses that regularly use the island. The types of businesses participating in the dialogue include kayak and standup paddleboard companies, photographers and other businesses primarily focused on ecotourism. CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article. 

EXPANDING THE CLASSROOM TO MASONBORO [from Lumina News on January 29, 2014]

For many who live around Wrightsville Beach, Masonboro Island is a common weekend destination during the summer months.  But for children attending downtown Wilmington schools, a trip to the uninhabited island could be a life-changing event. That is the impact nonprofit organization is hoping to bring to the hundreds of students attending New Hanover County Schools by sponsoring field trips to the island at no cost to the students. On Oct. 22, and Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours conducted a pilot trip to Masonboro Island with Wrightsville Beach School fifth graders. CLICK HERE to read the entire article. 


Masonboro Island was packed with hundreds of young people celebrating Thursday. "We're just going to be hanging out having a good time,” Chandler Mills said. Generations of folks have said the exact same thing on the 4th of July for decades. For many, this is their first time joining in on the festivities. "This is my first year. I've heard stories and had to come check it out," Dylan Cash said excitedly.

First time visitors are a main reason volunteers are also making their presence on the beach a tradition. The organization says many are unfamiliar with the lay of the land before making the trip over and do not realize there is not a way to dispose garbage.

"They have no way to get their trash off the island so that's where steps in to help,” explained Richard Johnson, co-founder of 

CLICK HERE for the whole story and video.

Some Want Changes After Latest Holiday on Masonboro [from WWAY NewsChannel 3 in July, 2012]
Hundreds of people made their way to Masonboro Island to celebrate Independence Day. But, in the holiday's wake, some folks are upset about the condition of the island. CLICK HERE to view the video piece.

Mayor, Town Manager call Masonboro Disaster [from LUMINA NEWS on July 6, 2012]
After Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti surveyed the mass of boats and bodies gathered on the north end Masonboro Island on the Fourth of July, one word he used to describe the scene was “unruly.” Cignotti was on the island late in the afternoon until 8 p.m., volunteering with’s effort to clean up the litter left behind by the revelers. 

“I was disappointed in the crowd. There was a lot of fighting. It was not a good environment,” Cignotti said. “I think the town is going to need to meet with the county and the National Estuarine Research Reserve group to rehash how we can make that better because it was a pretty dangerous situation for some of the kids.” CLICK HERE TO READ MORE...... Sweeps Island of Litter [from LUMINA NEWS on July 11.2011]

"We don’t need more rules," said Richard Johnson, founder of The no new rules mandate is more or less Johnson’s creed. He and other organization volunteers spent the weekend of July Fourth on Masonboro Island—a place where rules are a major source of debate among North Carolina citizens and lawmakers. Through its efforts,—Johnson’s volunteer cleanup group founded in 2008—aims to preserve both the island’s fragile ecosystem and its status as a recreational destination.  CLICK HERE TO READ MORE......

Masonboro kept clean by volunteers [from STARNEWSONLINE on July 5, 2011]

The Fourth of July weekend brings revelers to the natural, undeveloped Masonboro Island for parties, camping, cookouts and other gatherings. It’s a time for celebration, but it’s also a headache for volunteers with who try to keep trash off the undisturbed island. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE......

Volunteer Group Helps Keep Masonboro Clean on the Fourth [from WWAYTV3 on July 4, 2011]

While many folks spent their holiday weekend barbequing in the backyard or sunbathing on the beach, one group of volunteers gave their time to clean up after partiers. The group is all about keeping their beloved island clean. is a group dedicated to preserving public access to Masonboro Island. They take advantage of the July 4 weekend, when many people are celebrating on the island, to teach people about keeping it clean. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.......