Illinois Schools and Swarvoski Waterschool donate to Ascension students

Staff Report
Natalie Marioni, Director of Environmental Education & Citizen Science for The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center at Lewis and Clark Community College in Illinois, explains the backpack donations to fifth grade science students at Galvez Primary, Lake Elementary and St. Amant Primary.

SORRENTO –Fifth grade students from four science classes at Galvez Primary, Lake Elementary and St. Amant Primary were surprised with backpacks from Illinois filled with water conservation items and personalized letters.

"Our students were thrilled to receive these special backpacks from the Swavorski Waterschool program. They were especially touched by the personalized letters written by other students expressing their love and support during this challenging time," said St. Amant Primary Principal Paisley Morgan.

The initiative was in partnership with the newly-established Swarovski Waterschool USA Mississippi River, headquartered at Lewis and Clark Community College's National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. The project aims to empower Illinois students to make a positive impact on the lives of fellow students downriver, provide support for flood victims in Louisiana, and create a dialogue between the two, based on mutual experiences and understanding.

"I'm very sad about what happened, but everything will be okay," wrote Jessica, a fifth grade student at Lincoln Middle School in East St. Louis, to her pen pal downriver. "I'm glad you are back in school and able to continue your education...I hope this letter finds you in good spirits and it helps. I hope we can be life long pen pals. Maybe my story will help you know you're not alone."

Jessica, her classmates, and other fifth grade students at North Elementary School in Alton, Illini Middle School in Jerseyville, and Lovejoy Middle School in Brooklyn send personalized letters of support, along with backpacks filled with care items, to student currently displaced by floodwaters in Ascension Public Schools. Each item, including soap, reusable paper towels, books, notebooks, pencils, small toys and reusable sport bottles, correlate with each of the Swarovski Waterschool's three pillars -- access to safe water, water education and sanitation, hygiene and health.

"My students were so excited to see the letters that were written to them. Those letters made this donation so meaningful. Someone really cared about what they were going through," said Galvez Primary Principal Toni Hardy.

"It is overwhelming how people have reached out to all of the flood victims in Louisiana. This is a very meaningful way to show support and create an dialogue among students and teachers," said Lake Elementary Principal Jay Benoit.

Participating teachers at both ends of the project also received the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' One Mississippi curriculum guide, which contains lessons in science, history and culture pertaining to the Mississippi River, to help bring the project into perspective for the students.

The newest Swarovski Waterschool at NGRREC is the first and only one of its kind in North America and the only one located on the Mississippi River, at the confluence of the Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The Swarovski Waterschool program, which has footholds situated along many great rivers of the world--the Danube (Austria), Ganges (India), Yangtze (China), Nile (Uganda), Amazon (Brazil) and now the Mississippi (United States)--educates children ages 8-15 and their communities about the ecological, economic, social and cultural issues that affect water use on a local and global level, and provides clean drinking water and sanitation in schools and communities across the globe.

Multiple partners up and down the Mississippi River sponsored the backpack project through fiscal assistance, donated items and logistical support, including Lewis and Clark Community College, the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, Swarvoski, Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, Ascension Public Schools, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville STEM Center, Illinois American Water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Cherry Lake Publishing.