A first world community with no safe water. The phrase seems unthinkable, yet it is sadly accurate when used to describe the Flint water crisis, which has been happening for about a year now. After switching to a new water source at the end of 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan’s water supply was contaminated with high levels of lead, leading to a lack of safe water for many.
To fight back against the problem, groups across the state have been donating water, money, and other supplies to the people of Flint. DHS’s own student leadership, led by Kim Outinen, is one such group.
“It’s a terrible situation…I’ve taught global issues, and access to water, and we think that’s a developing country issue, and to have it in your own back yard I just felt like leadership could do something about it,” Outinen said.
Student Leadership has led water drives in the past, one of which was in the fall. That drive raised about $800.
However, this drive has a more personal connection for Outinen and the people of DHS.
“A student that I had that graduated from Dow High, probably, maybe ten years ago, she’s been teaching for six years I think,” Outinen said. “We’re friends on Facebook and was posting things about their struggles… and I said it was the perfect opportunity. Because sometimes when you look at an event so problematic as the entire city of Flint not having clean water, it seems like it was overwhelming. Will you make a difference?….And so, I thought it would be a great idea just to help her one classroom… and it’s a connection to Dow High, so it’s a perfect scenario.”
The teacher, Ashley Yuergens-Owens, teaches at Durant Tuuri Mott grade school, which has been struggling as of late. The Flint school district decided to close three schools, sending many to DTM. A 7th grade class was added to the school, and the influx of new students has led to the school becoming a “melting pot,” according to Yuergens- Owens. Suspension rates are high. Many students come from impoverished households, and have inadequate food or clothing.
“I can only think of one student in my classroom who lives at home with a mom and dad,” said Yuergens-Owens. “Every other student lives in a single parent household or does not live with either parent. Their homes are not safe areas, it is normal for them to hear gunshots within close range. On several occasions we have been able to hear gunshots during the school day as well.With all of these life struggles the last thing these kids needed was another basic need taken from them. It is unbelievable that worrying about clean drinking water is something we are talking about in 2016 within the United States.”
Money raised by the water drive will go towards providing safe drinking water to the students. Additionally, it will free up money for the school district to provide other essential items to the students such as food and clothing that they would otherwise be unable to get. The water drive will happen on Wednesday, April 27. Students are asked to bring cash donations.
For more information about the water drive, you can contact Mrs. Outinen by emailing her at OutinenKP@midlandps.org.
By: Jeremiah Drabik