Thanks to an alert from Henderson Bay High School’s Leadership Class teacher Peter Liljengren, I had an impressive day with most of the school’s staff and students Friday. They had a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the official opening of the school’s recently completed water bottle refilling station.
In a packed HBHS commons, Principal Brian Tovey kicked things off with a welcoming address via bullhorn because, wouldn’t you know it, on this of all days, the facility’s public address system chose not to operate. It dampened no one’s enthusiasm!
Through the generosity of a Pierce County grant, HBHS has a new water bottle fountain, explained Liljengren.
“We are excited to have it available for students, staff and community members to use and hope it will play a role in reducing the use of one-time-use water bottles,” he said. “This fountain will provide clean, filtered water. In the three weeks leading up to today’s ribbon-cutting, we have already saved over 500 water bottles by using the fountain and filling up refillable bottles.”
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HBHS senior Morgan Clarkson, a member of the school’s Gig Harbor Rotary Club-sponsored Interact Club as well as a key member of the school Leadership Class, said, “To begin with, the station itself is not a normal water fountain as it also functions as a place where people can refill their water bottles quickly and easily. Regular school water fountains are not always enough to keep students hydrated due to only being accessible between classes. An answer: Make water bottles readily available and a place they can be refilled so students can stay hydrated. Besides, the refilling station reduces use of plastic bottles.”
The process of getting the refilling station started in 2015 when Robin Malich proposed the idea of getting one for HBHS, said Clarkson.
Liljengren, English and leadership teacher at HBHS, went to the Sustainable Resources project coordinator for Pierce County Public Works, Robert Diekmann, to ask for a grant. Pierce County offered to donate the refilling station to HBHS. Approval from the school district was needed. Patrick Gillespie, director of facilities, spoke with HBHS student leadership and approved the project.
Liljengren praised Dieckmann’s effort to encourage “us to be more environmentally conscious and helping us obtain the water fountain. He met with us several times to educate students on sustainability issues, helped our Leadership Class do a ‘waste sort’ to identify what we are not recycling that we could be, and helped communicate the value of the new fountain to the district.”
“It was agreed that the district would pay for the installation of the refill station if the school paid for filter replacements,” said Clarkson. “Over the next two years several student leadership groups cycled in and out, but each group ensured that the process of installing the refill station continued. Dan Gregory, the district’s assistant superintendent, was also vital in keeping the project moving.
“When the station was finally installed, rather than replacing one of the existing water fountains, we placed it in an area closer to front of the school, making it more accessible to students and to people during community meetings held at HBHS further diminishing use of plastic bottles,” he said.
Student leadership began selling HBHS water bottles using the new school logo designed by students Aidan Clark and Gavin Olson.
“The project could have been forgotten and abandoned due to how long it took to complete but each new cycle of students ensured that the project continued,” Clarkson said.
Justifiably so! The student audience radiated pride in this important accomplishment!
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.