Teens teaching teens about the value of water

From shower timers to international trips, Denver students take up the challenge to educate and conserve.

December 7, 2015 | By: Jay Adams

Getting people to conserve water is no easy task, but that’s just what 32 high school students from Denver Public Schools are trying to accomplish.

The students are part of Challenge 5280, an annual competition to find solutions to some of Denver’s most serious community issues. Five businesses and organizations, including Denver Water, issued challenges to students to make Denver a better place to live. Nearly 200 students from 20 DPS schools entered the competition.

Matt Bond, Youth Education program manager (left), with the Caring Cowboys from Denver West Campus.
Matt Bond, Youth Education program manager (left), with the Caring Cowboys from Denver West Campus.

Denver Water asked the students to develop creative ways to educate their peers about the value of water by inspiring fun and water-efficient lifestyles. Students from North High School, Denver West Campus, Denver School of the Arts, and the Career Education Center, or CEC, all took on Denver Water’s challenge.

Misael Espino and his team from Denver West rallied around the idea of water conservation. “We picked this challenge because water is life,” he said. “Without water there wouldn’t be anything on this earth.”

The centerpiece of West’s campaign is a video showing what life would be like without water. Espino plays a man in search of water. “In the video, I can’t shower, use the bathroom or wash my hands,” he said. “We really wanted to show people that if we don’t start saving water now, that is what our future would look like.”

The team is handing out shower timers to students and using social media to push their video and facts about water conservation.

The CEC students are taking a global approach to water awareness with a trip to Mexico in 2016 for a firsthand look at a village that does not have a reliable source of water.

The teams from Denver North High School and Career Education Center.
The teams from Denver North High School and Career Education Center.

Denver Water’s Youth Education team is working with each group to develop awareness campaigns, which the students will be putting into action over the next six months.

“I was truly inspired by the creativity, thoughtfulness and insight shown by the four schools who accepted our challenge,” said Matt Bond, Youth Education program manager.

The high school teams started their campaigns in late September and presented them during the Challenge 5280 competition on Nov. 5. West and CEC took second and third place, respectively, and North won the team spirit award.

The Denver School of the Arts group hung blue cups from the ceiling of their school and painted parts of the floor blue to encourage students to think about the amount of water they use every day.

“As we started telling people what the cups stood for, they were really baffled by how much water they were using in their daily lives,” said Bridget Galaty, a junior at Denver School of the Arts. The students are focusing on simple steps students can take to save water. “Taking shorter showers, turning the faucet off while brushing your teeth; these are small things that can make a big difference,” she said.

The North team went on a fact-finding mission in October and conducted a water awareness survey at a community Halloween event. “We found that most people don’t have a clear understanding that water is a limited resource. That’s why raising awareness is key,” said Elesa Vigil, a North High School senior.

Students from Denver School of the Arts.
Students from Denver School of the Arts.

Vigil is passionate about water conservation and is ready to inspire her fellow students. “My message to people in Denver is that water is precious and they need to preserve it for generations to come,” she said.

Bond hopes the experience will help students develop long-term conservation habits. “We’ve been impressed by what they’ve done so far and hope they will all become life-long water ambassadors,” Bond said.

Over the course of the campaign, Denver Water will continue working with each group by conducting workshops, providing reusable water bottles, supplying shower timers and offering guidance on water-saving techniques.

Bond also is eager to listen and learn from the kids. “Their ability to know and read the pulse of their peers and neighborhoods is unique, enlightening and tremendously valuable for us,” he said.

Look for updates on the students’ progress here and on Denver Water’s Twitter and Instagram feeds over the coming months.

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