Monroe Center students make a difference


MONROE CENTER – What happens when you take an idea, add extreme passion, and then leadership and commitment to get it done?

These 4th graders from Monroe Center Grade School in the Meridian School District could easily tell you. Izzy Cowen, Sydney Frantz and Evee Layng were concerned about the number of sea turtles that were dying because of the plastic straws disposed of in the ocean. After reading much more about it and doing the research needed, they had several in depth conversations and began their journey. 

They put together an entire presentation to share with their principal, Deana Simpson, but it didn’t stop there. Their message was shared with Dr. PJ Caposey, the superintendent along with the Food Service Director, Lisa Reber. It didn’t take long to see the fruits of their labor. After some conversations, a few videos back and forth, their searching for pricing, and then everyone coming together to decide that not only will Monroe Center Grade School be turning a new leaf using paper straws, but the entire Meridian School District will do the same.   

Their teacher, Michele Massari, gave her students the time to develop their idea and be creative in a manner that led to solutions to the issue. Because of what these three students did and their leadership efforts, they were not only recognized at the end of the year celebration assembly, but they also caught the attention of their substitute teacher, Bob Kuzlik, as well.

While practicing their presentation and editing their work, Kuzlik connected with their purpose. He works with PADI and is a certified SCUBA instructor. PADI has a longstanding commitment to environmental conservation and Kuzlik wanted to share with the girls and their families an opportunity of a lifetime as a way to say thank you for their efforts. He came back to the school to offer the girls and their families the their first ever scuba diving lesson. 

“I’m so proud to see this generation being as passionate as these young ladies are about conservation and I want to give them a chance to see someday firsthand the world they were protecting,” Kuzlik said.  

Simpson was asked what this meant for her students and staff.

“When you see something as tremendous as this come to fruition simply by these young ladies taking an idea and putting everything they’ve got into it to stand up for what they believe in in such a professional manner it not only sets an example for all of us, but it makes you proud to know the impact of what your teachers and staff do with children each day matter more than what we could ever imagine,” she said. “I’m so proud of the girls and those that have encouraged them along the way. They will move mountains I’m sure and this is only the beginning.” 

 “I'm so excited that Monroe Center will be using paper straws,” Frantz said. “Our group spent a lot of time making posters and spreading the word that plastic straws aren't recyclable. It feels great to know our school cares and listened to us. Remember skip the straw and save a sea turtle!"