Most people take drinking water for granted, but not everyone is that lucky. AP Biology and Biology teacher Patricia Richardson is playing a large role in FHC’s program to raise money for the people of Flint, who are in serious danger due to a deadly amount of lead in their water.
The crisis began in April 2014, when the city switched its water supply to the Flint River. The purpose of this was to save money, giving financial relief to the struggling city. This was a massive mistake, and city officials continued to insist that the water was safe, even after tests showed high lead concentration in citizens’ homes. In September of 2015, a group of doctors suggested that the city should stop using the Flint River for water, after finding high levels of lead in childrens’ blood.
During October 2015, Flint officials told citizens that it is not safe to drink the tap water, and soon reconnected with Detroit’s water. Mid-December, Flint declared an emergency, and in early January, Governor Snyder declared a state of emergency for Genesee county.
The Forest Hills district is working to raise money and collect water and water filters for Flint citizens.
“[Students should] just think of helping out of the goodness of their heart, and the idea that the people that are affected by this didn’t do anything to be affected by it,” Richardson said. “They didn’t have control of it.”
Students were able to donate all last week, and were able to drop off either cases or gallons of water, faucet filters, or cash/checks. The water drive is district-wide, with efforts spanning the Forest Hills area. K-6 and 7-12 buildings are both collecting, due to students and community members wanting a way to help out. The National Honors Society (NHS) is leading the initiative, with publicity help from the BOOST club.
Richardson believes that the fundraiser will go well, and she says that community outreach programs help FHC students see what other people are facing. She also says that this was the reason there is no “reward” given to students, and that they should help because they want to.
Health teacher Patrice Hartsoe grew up in Flint, and still has a personal connection to people living there. This, along with her being a health teacher, made her the perfect person to take action for the relief effort.
“Lead poisoning is when lead is in the blood system, [and] when you test for it you can only detect it for about 72 hours. If the lead has already passed through your body and [it has done the damage already] you can test later and not [see any traces of it]” Hartsoe said.
Many FHC students do not realize how dangerous the Flint situation truly is, and this may affect how many students contribute to the fundraiser. The people of Flint, especially children, are at great risk. The effects of lead poisoning are permanent, and more people are being educated on the danger daily.
“The serious concern is the brain damage [lead poisoning] does. If someone is affected by it, it is for life. They will never achieve the full IQ that they were born with, so their learning abilities will go down,” Hartsoe said. “There are a lot of behavioral and emotional things that could happen because [lead poisoning] affects the central nervous system, which controls how we act and behave.”
Forest Hills families often treat clean drinking water as an ordinary thing, something that should be expected everywhere. Although this is often the case, the people of Flint do not have this luxury and need help from people who are more fortunate. The FHC water drive was a way for students and families to help out and make a difference.
“I hope that people understand how serious this is,” Hartsoe said. “We could really make a difference if we get involved.”