News & Stories

Individuals with cases of water

And Not a Drop to Drink

In school you learn that all living organisms need four things to survive: space, shelter, food and water. We take these four necessities for granted, but what happens when we lose one? The water crisis in Flint, Michigan is evidence of how dangerous it is to live without clean, potable water.

Many individuals, organizations and schools have flocked to aid the people of Flint by collecting bottled water and raising money to buy water filters for homes, schools and public facilities. The Bio-Med Science Academy is one school that made a big effort to help. On February 1, the head of Bio-Med Academy presented us students with a challenge: If we could bring in donations of 400 cases of bottled water and $3,000 to help the people of Flint, we would receive two free weeks of jeans days. The Academy has a strict uniform dress code, so that was a big incentive, but not nearly as big a motivator as the opportunity to do something good.

The Academy is very focused on fostering a sense of community in its students. All students are expected to complete 140 hours of community service before graduation. The school also offers students many volunteering opportunities, like volunteering at local parks to help them stay clean for the community. With activities like these, the students learn the true value of being an active community member and get the firsthand privilege of seeing how our efforts make a difference. So when the students were presented with the opportunity to help the citizens of Flint, it was a no-brainer to accept the challenge.

Teacher and staff support was also essential to the success of the water drive. All of the teachers donated money and water to help the students. Many of the staff have children, and the thought that kids in Flint may suffer permanent brain damage because of the water encouraged them to help out. Math teacher Lisa Berry expressed to her classes that it broke her heart to think about the entire generation of Flint children who would grow up and be set back because they had been exposed to contaminated water. She said that as a mother, she imagined how devastating it would be if her children were in that situation, and she urged her students to do as much as they could to help.

Some students were motivated by personal experience. My family lives in the country, and in August our water had to be turned off because our well’s main pipe had become corroded and was letting all kinds of bacteria into our drinking water. We live on a farm, so this not only affected us, but also our animals. We had to buy gallons of bottled water and use it to brush our teeth, to drink, and to give to our animals. We had to shower at other family members’ houses, and we couldn’t even wash our clothes. It was just for a month, but our water troubles required us to be extremely vigilant and ended up costing thousands of dollars to fix. The expense of buying clean water and fixing our pipe was enough to cause us to be financially cautious for the following months, so the cost of fixing the damage in Flint – now estimated at a cost of $1.5 billion – is mind-blowing.

Bio-Med staff members feel that it’s important to have us understand the importance of access to uncontaminated water. The sophomores at the Academy take water samples from the Cuyahoga River every year. They then test the samples and evaluate the water to determine whether or not the river has remained clean. To the students it’s important that Northeast Ohioans have access to clean water, considering Cleveland’s past and current water quality issues. We are focused on making sure that Cleveland and Northeast Ohio aren’t remembered for the river that caught fire.

The water drive ended on February 26 with a last-ditch effort to raise enough money to buy a water filter that would completely remove all lead from a water line connecting to either a school or a children’s foster center. Students participated in a $2 jeans day, and successfully raised the $753.26 needed to buy a filter. In total, my classmates and I raised $1,675.46, which was enough to buy the filter and 225 cases of bottled water. On February 29 several teachers and administrators loaded the water onto a truck and drove to Flint to deliver it, along with the filter. Technically, the students didn’t meet the goal, but the staff was so impressed by our efforts that they gave us one free jeans week. The true reward wasn’t the privilege of wearing jeans, but the chance to demonstrate the Academy’s dedication to helping the community and making the world a better place.

Gillian Seibel is a senior at Bio-Med Science Academy and an intern in the NEOMED Office of Marketing and Communications.