8th-Graders at SCF Collegiate School Champion Need for Clean Water

(Bradenton, Fla., Dec. 15, 2015) – After lugging a nearly 40-pound container of water from class to class, State College of Florida Collegiate School (SCFCS) 8th-graders Julie Stivers and Kea Kamiya are unlikely to take the ready availability of clean water in school and at home for granted anytime soon. The two were part of an 8th-grade initiative educating students about the issues faced by those lacking access to a clean water supply and challenging them to do something about it. Having raised nearly $11,000 since September, the girls and their classmates have ensured that at least one community in a developing country will have potable water for all its families.

Nearly one in 10 people worldwide – twice the population of the United States – lack access to clean water. The majority live in isolated rural areas and spend hours every day walking to collect water for their family.

Working with Charity Water, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing safe and clean drinking water to developing countries, the 54 SCFCS 8th-grade students have raised enough money to fully fund a drilled well, spring protection or BioSand filter that can provide clean water to a community in need.

The effort is part of the school’s 2015-16 Global Citizenship Initiative, in which students in each grade embrace their roles as global citizens and identify, study and act on issues that affect the world community. The initiative is led by the grades’ coaching classes, which are designed to provide additional guidance for students in four different areas: personal/social skills, academic skills, career and college resources, and multicultural inclusion and understanding.

According to Hannah Cochrane, an SCFCS instructor and coach, since the start of the school year the 8th-graders have been studying the causes and effects the lack of potable water exacts on those living in more than 24 countries. She is joined in the effort to educate the students about the initiative by fellow teachers and coaches Ryan Hale and Kristen Goddard.

In addition to the obvious health implications of consuming contaminated water, the students also have learned that some who live in developing countries walk up to three hours each day to retrieve clean water. This task keeps children, especially young girls, out of school and can take up time that parents could use to work and earn money to support their families.

Of this reality, Stivers said, “This is not OK. When I think about the opportunities I have, including the chance to go to college, I can’t imagine that some girls don’t get to do these things because they have to get water.”

Kamiya agreed. “It is unfair,” she said, “but we also learned that we could do more than just sit around being sad for these girls. We now know that we can do something. We can make a difference.”

The students each were challenged with designing a fundraising campaign with the objective of collectively reaching a goal of $10,000. Cochrane started the effort by using her September birthday as an opportunity to show them how such an effort might work.

Cochrane invited her family and friends to contribute $25 for each of her 25 years – and soon raised $1,300. “I was so not expecting that!” she admitted, adding that her success proved an inspiration to the students, who soon were creating their own campaigns, the majority of which raised at least $100.

Among the students, the promise of hair dying proved to be a popular gimmick, especially for Ben Gonzalez. Titling his effort Blue Hair for Blue Water, Gonzalez pledged to color his locks if he reached his goal. He then upped the ante when his dad agreed to join him if his pledges topped his classmates. More than $1,100 later, both father and son were sporting cobalt coiffures. Stivers still bears a purple hue in her hair from her campaign, which raised $261. Fellow student Eric Long and his twin brother went orange for the cause and raised $250.

Not as willing to change her hair color, but equally committed to the cause, Kamiya chose to raise money using her artistic talent. She solicited donations from all of her email and social media contacts for a chance to win an original piece of “Zentangle” art she created featuring a water drop in the center. Kamyia raised $330.

The students’ fundraising efforts were also lessons in philanthropy. “We taught them how to write a support letter and how to approach a business to ask for a charitable donation,” Cochrane explained. “They were required to send five emails to potential supporters and to have a business encounter. They also wrote and sent a personal thank you note to all who donated.”

In addition, the students got lessons in empathy when they experienced what it was like to tote five-gallon cans of water for four hours during their school day.

“That really made it real,” said Cochrane. “After struggling with the cans, so many of the students remarked that they couldn’t believe that this was part of a daily reality for other kids their age. It really hit home.”

While their fundraising work is mostly completed, the 8th-graders’ campaign with Charity Water runs through Dec. 30. The class already has exceeded its $10,000 goal, which is the organization’s minimum estimate to bring clean water to an entire community and qualifies them as an official project sponsor.

Charity Water will provide updates on the project funded by the Collegiate School’s efforts, beginning with the GPS coordinates of the actual site. According to its website, it takes 21 months of planning and community training to make a water project successful. The class will receive status reports at six months and a year, as well as a detailed report when the project is complete that includes photos and community demographics.

Long is excited to hear about the progress.

“The best thing about this project is that it provides a permanent solution. We’re not just sending bottles of water,” he said. “Once the town has a well they will always be able to have clean water.”

SCFCS is accepting contributions for the Charity Water project through Dec. 18. Checks or monetary donations can be dropped off or mailed to SCFCS, Charity Water Project, 5840 26th St. W., Bradenton, FL 34207. Checks also can be sent directly to Charity Water with “SCFCS 8th-grade coaching” in the memo line. For more information about Charity Water, go to

BELOW: State College of Florida Collegiate School 8th-graders Eric Long, Kea Kamiya, Julie Stivers and Ismael Ruiz with teacher Hannah Cochrane (in back) show the cans of water students carried with them to class.

State College of Florida Collegiate School 8th-graders Eric Long, Kea Kamiya, Julie Stivers and Ismael Ruiz with teacher Hannah Cochrane (in back) show the cans of water students carried with them to class.

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