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Apr 26, 2016 12:52 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays High School Seniors Raise Money To Bring Clean Water To Ghana

Hampton Bays High School students plant beach grass for Earth Day. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Apr 26, 2016 4:28 PM

A large crowd gathered at Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays last Thursday, April 21, for the first time since last summer.

But the young people covering the popular stretch of sand overlooking the Atlantic Ocean were not swimmers or sunbathers taking advantage of surprisingly warm temperatures. Rather, they were students from nearby Hampton Bays High School—an estimated 600 of them.

Virtually the entire school population spent hours planting 10,000 sprigs of beachgrass along a beach that many described as their favorite summer destination. The massive planting, funded by hundreds of individual sponsors recruited by the students, also included the removal of garbage as part of the school district’s Earth Day celebration. As of last week, the students had raised more than $1,500.

As most in attendance were quick to note last week, students were also raising attention, and funds, for a much bigger initiative: helping to bring clean drinking water to the small West African town of Mampong in Ghana.

The money raised from the sponsors of the Earth Day beachgrass planting also will benefit the bigger fundraising project to help Ghana, an initiative organized entirely by Hampton Bays High School seniors, and close friends, Laura Maila and Magdalena Wrobel.

“The best part of this entire project is that it came from those kids,” said Hampton Bays High School Principal Chris Richardt. “I’m very proud of those two.”

While admiring the beachgrass planted by their classmates, Laura and Magdalena explained that they were inspired to raise money for the people of Ghana by their band teacher, Jennifer Halsey. She is going on an independent mission trip in June to Ghana with Father Collins Adutwum from the Church of Saint Rosalie in Hampton Bays, her home parish.

Ms. Halsey, who has been teaching in the school district for 20 years, said traveling to Africa was a dream of hers since she was a teenager attending Southampton High School. She explained that she decided on Ghana as it is Father Adutwum’s home country. He grew up in Mamponteng, a city near Mampong in the Ashanti region, and said there is a lack of potable drinking water there.

“They have great need for clean water,” Father Adutwum said of Ghana. “Any water we drink, it goes to every part of our body, so it’s important that the water we take in is clean. I see that as a great need there.”

Earlier this year, Ms. Halsey was online researching Water Is Life—a nonprofit with five locations around the world that is dedicated to bringing clean water to those in need—when Laura and Magdalena visited her classroom during their lunch period. When she told the girls about the organization and how she was planning to install two wells, and to deliver filtration straws to help with Ghana’s water crisis, they were instantly determined to help her.

“We said, ‘We wanna help. We wanna do something for you,’” Laura recalled.

The first step was making presentations for Hampton Bays Schools Superintendent Lars Clemensen and school faculty, which Laura and Magdalena did earlier this school year before sharing their plan with their peers. The filtration straws, which cost $10 each, are used like regular straws but have internal components including membranes, iodized crystals and active carbon to filter toxins from the water to make it safe for drinking.

Laura and Magdalena’s goal is to raise $2,000 by June—a number they are close to reaching. As of Friday, Ms. Halsey said, they had raised $1,537.

To help raise additional money for the filtration straws—the girls hope to be able to buy 200—Laura and Magdalena are hosting a recycling project at the school that involves asking their classmates to bring in recyclables that can be redeemed for 5 cents each. The bottles are being recycled through deposit machines, and the money they get back is going toward Ms. Halsey’s goal of bringing clean water to Ghana during her mission trip. So far, the recycling project has brought in $150.

Ms. Halsey said she is proud of the hard work Laura and Magdalena are putting into the project. “They are the masterminds,” she said. “They worked thousands of hours on this.”

Laura and Magdalena are also reaching out into the Hampton Bays community about their fundraising efforts through a Facebook page titled “Tidying Up Tiana.” On the page, they explain the beachgrass project and ask community members to sponsor a high schooler to help them raise money for their drinking water cause. The page has a link to their GoFundMe fundraiser, which can be found at www.gofundme.com/tidyinguptiana. As of Tuesday afternoon, $920 was raised on the GoFundMe page.

Magdalena said she was happy about the success of last week’s beach cleanup. “I think it went incredible,” she said.

Her peers agreed.

“I think it was cool that we were doing this for the environment,” said sophomore Jackie Mujsce.

“It was all about helping the community and the beach,” added freshman Sean Noonan.

Many of the students, including Kelina Tuttle, a freshman, said this was the first time they helped the environment for Earth Day. “It’s helping the community,” Kelina said, noting that she hopes to do a similar Earth Day activity again next year. “It’s just nice to do it.”

The beachgrass was planted in the sand just east of the entrance to the beach. When beachgrass grows, it has extensive underground stems that can stabilize, and sometimes even prevent, coastal erosion.

The grass was purchased from Peat & Son Nursery in Westhampton, Mr. Clemensen said, using money for science curricular supplies—all of the science classrooms incorporated a marine or earth science lesson explaining the importance of beachgrass.

Mr. Clemensen added that he was ecstatic to see Magdalena and Laura’s beach cleanup come to life last week.

“We’re teaching [the students] to think globally while acting locally,” he said.

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umm, hello...do these seniors know that right here at home in the good ole USA, Flint Michigan is in great need of clean water??
By Jaws (245), Amity Island on Apr 27, 16 11:00 PM
Yay - Beach grass! This is the way to save the beach! Will try to post the documentary if I can find it of a little old lady in Montauk - a woman past 75 years old who was less than 5 feet tall - set about planting the beach grasses BY HERSELF around the Montauk lighthouse - SAVING the dunes there - solo! The Montauk something or other association recognized her efforts and were embarrassed into funding and assisting her months and years after her she began because by golly - IT WORKS! Good ...more
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Apr 28, 16 2:02 PM
When these seniors return from Ghana - maybe they could help us with Shinnecock Bay, Sag Pond, etc...
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on May 4, 16 6:29 PM
charity and good deeds begin at home. Nice press but a lot needs to be done here
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on May 4, 16 6:41 PM