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Students marched around the track as a symbolic gesture.

Mission Accomplished

Students present $15,200 to Water for South Sudan

WATKINS GLEN, May 22 -- The Watkins Glen school district student body, K-12, turned out in force along the school track Friday for the presentation of a check for $15,200 to the Water for South Sudan organization.

The money will finance the drilling of a well in a village in South Sudan, a relatively new country in east-central Africa. The money came from a months-long project spearheaded by the school's three 7th-grade classes taught by Tammy Kellogg.

"We thought she was crazy.We were nice and encouraged her, but we didn't think she'd really be able to do it.," said Superintendent Tom Phillips, recalling the day that Kellogg approached him and School Business Manager Gayle Sedlack with the idea to raise $15,000 to fund a well in South Sudan, where water is at a premium and normally taken from sources rife with bacteria and disease.

In that region of the world, said Lynn Malooly of Water for South Sudan, infant mortality is high due to diseases such as those generated by untreated stream and pond waters.

Malooly traveled to Watkins Glen Thursday from the organization's office in Rochester to speak to students in the school, and to praise their project in a speech at Rotary Club. She then received the check Friday from the project leaders, 7th graders Miranda Rodriguez and Scott Brubaker. The ceremony in front of the athletic field bleachers was attended by hundreds of students


Encouraged by Kellogg, the 7th graders, starting in the fall, had enlisted the aid of the student body and of teachers, administrators and the community to raise the funds -- no small feat, especially in a period of mere months.

Some other schools elsewhere have attempted to raise similarly sizable funds, said Malooly, but normally across a period of a year or longer. "Amazing," she said of the Watkins effort, which will fully fund one well..

What triggered the project was a book read by students titled Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, which tells the story of Nya, an 11-year-old girl in South Sudan who must travel two hours from her home twice a day to get the only water available for her family. The book also tells the story of Salva Dut, founder of Water for South Sudan.

"It made me feel bad," said Brubaker about the book, "because most people have water, even bottled water. They don't (in South Sudan), and some of them die of diseases."

That scenario inspired the 7th graders to action -- including dozens of presentations to classes and organizations, seeking donations. As Rodriguez said to the gathering Friday, "We're doing yet another presenation (now) to add onto the 54 others we have done during the project. Now we're sadly ending it. We are the representatives of the 7th grade, but there are a bunch of other grades that helped us out."

Added Brubaker: "The class of 2020 had a vision to make a difference by providing clean water for South Sudan, to bring them hope and give them a chance to have some of the opportunities that we have."

Among the project efforts: students smashed pies in the faces of good-natured faculty, mailed 92 letters to businesses, marched in a parade, held bake sales and a fund-raising school dance, and collected more than 200 pounds of scrap metal..

There were doubters along the way -- like the superintendent at the outset -- and unforeseen obstacles, but Kellogg and the students just kept moving forward. They reached their goal in March, but waited for warmer weather so they could hold the check ceremony outside.

"You guys didn't think we could do it," Brubaker said to the assembled classes Friday, "but here we are."

With that, he and Rodriguez handed the ceremonial check to Malooly -- who explained that drilling will take place in an as-yet undetermined village next year, "during the dry season." Access by her organization's large drilling rig to the remote villages is difficult at best, and absolutely impossible during the rainy season, when mud predominates.

Water for South Sudan has drilled 257 wells, she said, each one serving 1,000 to 1,500 people. Those wells only provide the basics, she said, noting that the villages would be even better served if "we could go back to every village (with a well) and drill a second one." The drill goes down anywhere from 100 to 300 feet during a period of three or four days until reaching an aquifer, or underground layer of water.

Yes, the 7th graders -- 90 students in three classes -- had a vision, said Kellogg. "And as a class, as the class of 2020, I have to say they have perfect vision."

The presentation concluded, the student body strode, one class after another, around the track. It was a walk, said Kellogg, that symbolized the walks to water that residents of South Sudan "won't have to make" once this Watkins-financed well and other wells are drilled.

Photos in text:

Top: Project leader Miranda Rodriguez speaks while assistant leader Scott Brubaker and teacher Tammy Kellogg listen.
Second: 7th graders Ali LaMoreaux (center) and Adrienna Solomon presented a t-shirt to Water for South Sudan chief administrative officer Lynn Malooly.
Third: 7th graders Amber Updyke, left, and Kelsey Kernan asked some questions of Malooly, such as why she got involved with Water for Sudan. (She wanted, among other things, to do something to help people.)

Project leaders Miranda Rodriguez and Scott Brubaker present a check for $15,200 to Lynn Malooly, chief administrative officer for Water for South Sudan, headquartered in Rochester. Teacher Tammy Kellogg is partially obscured by the check on the right.

The 7th graders gathered after the celebration for a group photo.


© The Odessa File 2015
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869