Twenty high school students from eleven DC, Maryland, and Virginia high schools met with Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen yesterday to take a leadership role in the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative. The students were selected to be members of the new "Student Action Committee" because of their high level of motivation to find solutions and create public awareness about how we can work with government leaders, schools and communities to eliminate the serious trash problem in the Potomac Watershed.
Juan Garcia from Freedom High School in Woodbridge stated “By protecting the Potomac watershed we are showing everyone that we care about our living areas. We are also proving to many people that the youth of our nation have a voice and as youth we are preserving our environment for future generations.”
"These students have an opportunity to use their creativity to encourage all of us to take personal responsibility for cleaning up our watershed," said Congressman Van Hollen. "I salute them for stepping up to the plate to get something done. We look forward to welcoming and including their vision for positive change in this year's second annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit."
COG and the Alice Ferguson Foundation created this unique opportunity for students to take a leadership role on the trash issue.
"We think youth are a key part of the solution, and through their efforts mobilizing friends, family and communities, we'll get there," said Tracy Bowen, Executive Director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. In meetings at COG headquarters in Washington, DC, the students will explore environmental stewardship and gain awareness of leadership and the numerous ways in which we can all become leaders.
Parnian Davoodi of Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda stated: "Primarily what I expect from this committee is to go the step beyond finding a problem to actively make a difference. I want to gain leadership skills in regard to solving current and future environmental issues while creating a widespread awareness in my community.” The goal of the Student Action Committee is for the students to explore how we can address the trash issue, and for students to provide their own ideas and suggestions for an anti-litter campaign.
Student Action Committee members will be given the opportunity to present their ideas and make recommendations to COG's Board of Directors.
Launched in 2006 by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative seeks to address the trash problem from a watershed-wide approach that will benefit the entire region. Twenty-three elected officials signed the Potomac Watershed Trash Treaty during the 2006 Trash Summit and vowed to help the Potomac become trash-free by 2013. The majority of these signatories are also members of the COG Board of Directors.
"As Chairman of the Advisory Council for the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, I applaud the more than twenty counties, cities and leaders in the Potomac region that have signed the Potomac Watershed Trash Treaty," Congressman Van Hollen said. "Together we recognize that a community that respects itself must take responsibility for cleaning up its great waterways - the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. This initiative holds great promise for significant and tangible results."
The Student Action Committee is an important step toward this goal of a trash-free Potomac watershed.
The trash debris that plagues the Potomac Watershed has negative effects in many areas of life in the region. The Alice Ferguson Foundation's nineteen years of trash cleanups have made a contribution to improving our waterways - but they are not the solution! AFF's objectives are to challenge regional leaders to work collaboratively; to bring together key stakeholders to research and explore alternative, innovative, cost-effective solutions that will have long term impact; and to improve general pubic education and awareness that can shift individual behaviors. Numerous federal and regional agencies including EPA, NOAA, COG and ICPRB are providing financial, human and technical resources.
Many students were selected though “Bridging the Watershed,” a partnership environmental education program between the Alice Ferguson Foundation, the National Park Service and area high schools. Its purpose is to provide personally meaningful, educational experiences that connect students to their place in the natural and cultural world.
At the second annual Potomac Trash Summit that will convene in June, 2007 at The World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC, Student Action Committee members will take an active role in this unique forum for elected officials, stakeholders, community leaders and citizens learn, discuss, plan and take action on trash reduction.
SAC members will also participate in the 19th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup that will take place this year from 9:00 a.m. to 12 Noon on Saturday, March 31 and Sunday April 1, 2007.