By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
ST. JOSEPH — Several area schools and agencies have stepped up to help residents involved with the Flint water crisis.
St. Joseph Public Schools’ staff and students are among the school districts working to collect and donate water and funds to the American Red Cross.
The effort began when St. Joseph High School’s boys swim coach and science teacher Paul Hirn – who has family in Flint – emailed administration in search of what could be done. From there, the school’s staff began engaging their respective service groups and student senates.
At the high school, Principal Kevin Riggs said because they had finals to worry about last week, the school will begin raising money through the first week of February.
“We will be raising money during lunch time Monday through Friday,” Riggs said. “Students can donate and if they donate more than $5 they will be entered into a raffle at lunch for gift cards.”
Principal Chad Mandarino sent emails notifying all Upton Middle School students and parents on what the school had planned for the upcoming week.
Last week, middle school staff could wear jeans for $3 a day or pay $10 for every day of the week. Come Tuesday, Upton Middle School students can pay $1 and wear a hat, while students can wear pajamas for $1 on Thursday.
“Pajamas are a big deal at the middle school,” Mandarino said. “We’re going to assess what we collected at the end of the week, and our student council might kick in some money from their Activity Fund to boost it a little. They have talked about this in social studies and have been following it in class.”
At E.P. Clarke Elementary School, Principal Michelle Allen said they held a “Fill Flint Day” last week where students could pay $1 to wear a hat, and teachers paid $5 to wear jeans.
The school raised $840 and collected water that was later contributed to the Bridgman Elementary School water drive.
“The kids were so proud to be part of a solution,” Allen said. “Our parents were very supportive. We also learned we had some family connections in Flint.”
Mike Wagner, principal at Lincoln Elementary, said students collected $682 last week during a one-day pajama event.
“It’s always nice to teach kids to think about others even if the community isn’t right here,” Wagner said. “They really exceeded my expectations. I was really proud of them.”
Tracy McFall, who served as student council advisor and fourth grade teacher at Brown Elementary School, said students decided two weeks ago to get a large water jug that is normally used for a cooler. Students flipped it upside down so hallway pedestrians could donate loose change.
The philanthropic venture also proved to be an educational one for the students involved.
“Today as I was walking by, I saw a custodian drop some change in,” she said. “I have a grandmotherly volunteer who also dropped some change in the other day. We also looked up what lead is because while the kids were making posters, a lot of them were wondering what it was.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 31, 2016)