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AP Science Students Raise Money for Clean Water

March 25, 2014

by Vanessa Langdon

Clean water is taken for granted in the United States. This feeling of water being plentiful is only true in some areas of the world. Some local high school students are trying to do their part to alleviate the water crisis by raising funds to build a well in Kenya.

Albany High School’s advanced placement environmental science class has partnered with the Charity Water Project, a non-profit based out of New York City, to raise $3,000 by March 31. All of this money goes to building wells to provide clean water to villages worldwide.

The two environmental science classes are taught by Larry Bizzarro. He has worked at the high school for seven years but this is his first year teaching the advanced environmental science class.

“It’s a class I’ve been trying to get started the last couple of years. I wanted to bring some of these issues to the student body,” Bizzarro said.

The fundraiser, he said, developed very organically. “There’s a chapter in the curriculum about the availability of water. We started watching some videos on the water crisis in the world…and just decided, why don’t we just jump on this?” he said.

The project was to be an independent project with little involvement on the part of  Bizzarro, He set up the website for the charity and took a group photo for the site.

“I don’t want to really be involved, I want you guys to have the satisfaction of completing this on your own. I’ll set up the website but you guys do all the leg work.”

Bizzarro himself has not reached out to other teachers and faculty to raise funds, “I really want the kids to have the satisfaction of doing this, Bizzarro said. “I personally have really not told any teachers about this,” he said. “They can do it and talk to their other teachers.”

The two classes decided on $2,000. Bizzarro then asked one of the students, Fiona Leary, to write a description of the charity for their website.

“She wrote 3,000 instead of 2,000, Bizzarro said. “I think it was an intentional typo on her part.”

The $3,000 goal still stands . “What’s the worst that could happen, we don’t get 3,000?” As of March 19, the two classes had raised $2,740.

Bizzarro chose Charity Water because of the ease of the website and the fact that the class has access to information about who they are actually helping. The charity “send[s] pictures within a year. We already know where the well is going; it’s going to a village in Kenya.”

Bizzarro, Andrews, and Patnaude explain the functions of their Charity Water website./Vanessa Langdon

Bizzarro, Andrews, and Patnaude explain the functions of their Charity Water website./Vanessa Langdon

The students originally had until April to meet their goal but, “they cut it short because they already know where the money is going so they’re going to start drilling the well this summer. So by the fall I’ll have pictures and letters from the people so the kids will actually get to see where the money went.”

He stressed the importance that the students see that “lives are being changed.”

Coincidentally, Bizzarro previously visited Kenya on vacation. “We visited a few villages. I didn’t ask that the money went to Kenya but we saw some serious poverty, it just makes it nice,” said Bizzarro about his connection to the well site.

The photos Bizzarro brings to class “really help…get a good view of what he’s really talking about during certain chapters,” said junior Emily Andrews, 17.

She is one of 50 participating students. The level of participation varies among the students, Bizzarro said. Some students work hard while others have yet to contribute.

To maintain the completely voluntary atmosphere all the work for the project is done outside of class with no added incentive.  Bizzarro said he doesn’t want to force the students to do charity “it’s something if they feel strong about they should involve themselves in.”

The students don’t have a certain quota to maintain and aren’t given any specific directions “because then it’s not really charity and I don’t want it to be an assignment,” said Bizzarro.

The students have been running the show since launching the project shortly after their water unit in January. Sophomore student Emily Patnaude, 15, said she is uses her social media accounts to raise awareness about the school’s Charity Water project.

“I use Twitter a lot so that was a major tool, said Patnaude. “I tweeted the link out,” she also tweeted to two bands. She asked the bands to tweet the link on their accounts as well as retweeting her original tweet.

Bizzarro surprised both Andrews, and pictured above Patnaude, with water bottles supplied by Charity Water for all their work towards the project./Vanessa Langdon

Bizzarro surprised both Andrews, and pictured above Patnaude, with water bottles supplied by Charity Water for all their work towards the project./Vanessa Langdon

One of the bands, Stellar Young, tweeted the link to their 563 followers in January. Patnaude knows band member John Glenn, a substitute teacher in the Albany City School District.

“I tweeted at Gentlemen Hall too…they tweeted it from the band’s account and the lead singer’s account. So they tweeted it twice, and there was an increase in donations afterwards,” said Patnaude who also used her Tumblr account to get the link out.

Andrews spread the word via her Facebook account and by emailing local environmental law firms and companies.

“I also take a video production class here at school and I grabbed a bunch of kids from my class and made a PSA about it. I’m still working on it. I had problems with shooting and then the class got moved to a completely different building but I’m working on it,” said Andrews.

Additionally, students contacted County Executive Dan McCoy who posted it on his Twitter and Facebook. Assembly Member Patricia Fahy also put it on her website after students contacted her.

Student Julie Salinero emailed the Albany City School District public relations person and they put in on the district Facebook page.

Sophomore Liz John made posters that she hung up in the school and local businesses that featured a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone and brings the user right to the classes Charity Water page.

“I definitely really like to see the kids getting involved. It’s very satisfying as an educator to see kids want to help other people,” said Bizzarro.

Both Andrews and Patnaude expressed feelings about the school being portrayed in a bad light, “we’re kind of like the lost boys. If something bad ever happens in our school it makes the news automatically, while stuff like this never surfaces,” said Andrews.

Patnaude’s goals and outlook has been changed drastically by her work with the class and Charity Water. “When we started it I was like ‘oh this was pretty cool but it would be cooler if I could do this hands on.

“It might be something I want to look into as like a career choice,” said Patnaude.

The Charity Water project had a similar effect on Andrews. “I wanted to get out there and do something, start not in Kenya but maybe back in Albany.”

The Charity Water project is leading to other community endeavors.

“Through the school, Mr. Bizzarro told me about how we’re going to start a garden…and I want to get involved with that and start a community garden and teach people about sustainability and learn different ways to grow food,” said Andrews.

The project has brought the classes together too. “In the beginning everyone was always constantly looking at the page and talking about it during class,” said Andrews.

Bizzarro said that if a future class launches a similar project he might have all students write at least one email to show, “how easy it is and how little effort you have to put in to do charity.”

The Albany High School’s portion of Charity Water runs until Monday. Donations can be made on with check, PayPal, or credit card. Help the students of the advanced placement environmental science classes by donating now. All proceeds go directly to the building of wells. Bizzarro said, “I really want us to make our goal.”-30-


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