Students set sights on improving county environment

Kayla Renie/The Herald
Southridge High School senior Jordan Eckert, back right, listens to Scott Saalman during the first Kimball Electronics High School Environmental Council meeting at Kimball Electronics' headquarters in Jasper on Wednesday. Student representatives met to kick off a pilot program for high schoolers interested in environmental activism.


JASPER — A group of students from Dubois County high schools has its sights set on bettering the environment.

The Kimball Electronics High School Environmental Council — a new outfit sponsored by the Jasper-headquartered company — met for the first time Wednesday evening to begin planning a local Earth Day project led by area youth.

“The main thing is really finding ideas on what they can do as a collective, high school team,” Scott Saalman, who is director of communications at Kimball Electronics and is also an adult leader of the council, said before the gathering. “To do something here in the county for the environment [and] community. So, we want their ideas.”

He explained that this iteration of the group is a pilot. He sees this movement as a learning experiment. Saalman’s inspiration for the team came from Greta Thunberg, who is a 17-year-old environmental activist from Sweden.

“Really, she’s saving the world,” Saalman said. “But we want to think local and kick it down a few million notches just to encourage people to get involved with the environment. And I think the ideas of the students, people of that age, are going to be very important, I think, for the future of everything.”

Students from Jasper High School, Southridge High School, Northeast Dubois High School and Forest Park Junior-Senior High School serve on the environmental council.

Wednesday, at the Kimball Electronics Headquarters in Jasper, members brainstormed potential projects, which included things like a used clothing drive, a tree giveaway at county schools, composting lunch food and increasing the number of recycling bins in the buildings.

“There’s always something that we can all do,” said Lydia Erwin, a junior at Forest Park. “It may seem small, but even just picking up a piece of trash on the ground can help. So, we can all do a part. A small part.”

Wednesday night’s gathering also featured a guest speaker with an environmental background. Anna Sacks of New York City presented to the youth via Skype about research she has conducted that is focused on items discarded as waste by major retail company CVS Pharmacy that could help people in need.

“I also want to say that for you all as students, you have a lot more power than you actually might realize,” Sacks told the kids. “And you could definitely influence what your school and your local community is doing. And I think that because you’re students, you could be able to push a little bit more than an adult.”

Student environmental council members are Evalyn Sherer and Jordan Eckert of Southridge, Madison Mickler and Ben Schepers of Northeast Dubois, Brooklyn Coultas and Abby Kidwell of JHS, and Gryffin Flowers and Lydia Erwin of Forest Park.

Teacher representatives are Susan Wagner of Southridge, Ellie Russell of Northeast Dubois, Joshua Dodd of Jasper and Lavina Schwartz of Forest Park.

Kimball mentors and coaches are Saalman, John Kahle, Chris Whann, Lynn Scheu, Jason King, Desiree Castillejos and Rylee Page.

More information about the project that the group decides to pursue will be forthcoming.

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