Pupils at Jackson Elementary in northwest Salt Lake City have gained national recognition for their efforts to clean up hazardous waste in their neighborhood.
In mid-June, seven students and two advisers from the school will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to receive the National Community Problem Solving Award, presented by a non-profit educational group. Three schools are picked each year a high school, junior high and elementary to receive the award."It's really exciting. Every one us of is going to make a speech about what we accomplished. I feel really good about it," said Heather Hilliard, who was looking at a map and pinpointing Michigan as she spoke.
"I plan to help out and make my speech reflect on everything we've done," said Christina Lingbloom. She joined others in the Jackson program in contacting people for contributions, visiting the nearby site the youngsters had targeted for cleanup and lobbying Utah legislators to create a cleanup fund.
For some of the students, the trip to Michigan will include their first plane ride, and they're excited about that.
"I've never been on a big plane, but I was in a small one once," said Heather. Christina has been on planes a couple of times but never with the promise of a national award at the other end.
The students are gearing up for fund-raising so they can come up with the $2,500 air fare and other expenses, said their teacher, Barbara Lewis. A local travel agency has agreed to give the students a discount on plane tickets.
Plans are in the making for a yo-yo demonstration and sale and other events to raise the money. The Jackson students are seasoned fund-raisers, having undertaken several projects to further their cleanup objectives.
At the Michigan ceremony, they will receive the award, carry the American flag and make a 20-minute presentation on their proj-ect before an audience of more than 1,000. They will also teach participants a song, written by a Utah resident to celebrate the Jackson project, which is being adopted as the national theme for the organization.
The Michigan event will also feature a Future Problem Solving competition in which student delegations from across the country will compete. Utah will be represented by students from Skyline High School, Butler Junior High School and Upland Terrace Elementary School.
The Jackson students, who are in a program for the gifted, got involved in environmental issues last spring when they found out a barrel site near their school had been leaking toxic waste. As a result of the students' work, the Environmental Protection Agency conducted a test of the site and found that ground-water and soil had been contaminated.
Last fall the students decided to expand their environmental project, Lewis said. They decided to tackle toxic waste sites statewide. Lewis said one of her best teaching moments occurred when she didn't laugh at her students' proposal.
Because state cleanup coffers were almost empty, the Jackson Elementary class decided to raise funds for them. They began with a white elephant sale in December that took in nearly $500. In February the students approached the Legislature with a bill to set up a State Contributory Superfund, and thereby invite local businesses to contribute to cleanup efforts.
To date, the students have raised $2,700 and have learned of federal matching funds that could boost that total to $27,000.
"They have brainstormed and solved this all themselves."
Lewis said she is pleased with the money the students have raised so far but said the only way the group will be able to go to Michigan is through community contributions. Jackson Elementary has the lowest income of any school in Salt Lake School District.
Contributions can be sent to Jackson Elementary ELP Program in care of Heather Hilliard, 750 W. Second North, Salt Lake City UT 84116.