Young voices matter — that’s what several students of Drug Free Youth in the Santa Clarita Valley heard to help set the foundation of their project that focuses on ending the global water crisis. “You don’t have to wait until you’re older or have a college degree to make a difference,” said Kellen Brewer, student activation coordinator at Thirst Project, the world’s largest youth water nonprofit whose goal is to create a socially conscious generation of young individuals who end the water crisis across the world. Earlier this month, Brewer connected with middle and high school students of the William S. Hart Union High School District who are members of DFY, an anti-drug program among school districts, the city of Santa Clarita and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, to discuss the worldwide issue and find out what can be done at the local level. There are 2.1 billion people still without safe drinking water in their homes, according to World Vision, a humanitarian aid organization, and more than 1 billion remain without a choice but to defecate outside as of 2018. Brewer asked students if they knew of the severity of the issue and through a demonstration, helped them see how some collect safe drinking water. “After starting a conversation and presenting facts, we thought about what we can do now and here in the Santa Clarita Valley because it’s important that they know that they are capable of making change right now,” he said. To help students join in on Thirst Project’s mission, DFY launched a month-long recycling drive at seven middle schools and eight high schools where all funds raised benefit the nonprofit’s water well project in Swaziland, Africa. “Typically in the fall, we do community service projects,” said Casey Miller, DFY arts and events program specialist. “This is the first time we partner with Thirst Project and students are really excited that most participating schools have decided to run the drive until the end of the year.” Canyon High School has even committed to raising enough money to fund a new water well, which could cost around $12,000, according to Miller. She added that Thirsty Project’s goal of educating and inspiring the youth to become active leaders in their communities now mirrored that of DFY. “We chose the Thirsty Project because we wanted students to think about global issues and not just ones where they could just help benefit their home valley,” Miller said. “We want them to think about how they can help people across the world today.” Participating students had the opportunity to decorate drive boxes with special messages and symbols that educate on the water crisis, while others have mobilized to open the conversation at their campuses by inviting guest speakers. “This is all about being a part of the solution,” Brewer said. “It’s not about raising money but about having the conversation and getting the ball rolling.” Anyone who is interested in learning more or donating can visit dfyinscv.com and thirstproject.org.