By Kaitlyn Nickerson
For The Signal
Students from kindergarten through sixth grade filed into the multi-purpose room at Wiley Canyon Elementary School in Newhall on Thursday for an assembly two years in the making.
Principal Timothy Lankford raised his hand and one by one students raised theirs. The room got quiet as Lankford welcomed up the afternoon’s special guest.
“We are all in this room for a very special reason,” said Evan Wesley, vice president of student activation at Thirst Project.
Three years ago, Wesley came to Wiley Canyon for Read Across America, and read the sixth-graders a story about the water crisis.
“They were fascinated by it and they wanted to learn more, so we decided to invite Evan back the following year, and all of us read the book the ‘Long Walk to Water’ to our classes in order to introduce them to the water crisis,” said Sarah Romero, a sixth-grade teacher at Wiley Canyon.
Wesley is a representative from Thirst Project, a nonprofit organization that works with young people to help end the water crisis across the world by building wells that provide communities with clean drinking water.
After his second presentation at Wiley Canyon two years ago, students decided to take action. That fall, the sixth-grade students at Wiley Canyon began raising the $12,000 needed to build a well in Swaziland, Africa.
They started with a fall family dance, a rummage sale and a gift basket that students asked local businesses to donate to. They raised around $7,000 that first year, Romero said.
This year, they raised the last few thousand dollars through a fundraiser called “Water Week,” in which students and their families could purchase $5 ceremonial “water droplets.” In addition to the fundraiser, the sixth-graders educated kindergarten to fifth-grade students about the water crisis.
“That was really powerful, because we had first graders going home and telling their mom and dad, ‘Did you know there are people around the world who don’t have access to clean water and we’re doing something about that?’” Romero said.
At the assembly, Wesley explained that the money the kids had raised went to building a well in a community in Swaziland. The students got to vote between two different communities and one of them is expected to get a well with a plaque that says “Wiley Canyon Elementary” in the next few months.
“I think the biggest takeaway is that our sixth-graders have learned that they can be advocates,” Romero said. “It doesn’t matter their age, it doesn’t matter how much money they have or how much education they have, as long as they have a caring heart they can make a huge difference in the world.”