The New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) received a $100,000 grant from insurance company State Farm to conduct a drinking water safety awareness campaign.
30 members of the nonprofit’s Paterson Youth Council will work to collect water samples from throughout the city to test for lead. This will provide a baseline of the dangers in the city’s drinking water supply.
The percentage of children in Paterson with lead poisoning from all sources including water is higher than Flint, Michigan, according to a state study.
The collected data will be analyzed and a public education campaign will follow. Young people will create campaigns in English, Spanish, and Bengali to inform the city’s diverse population.
The youth group’s findings will be shared with local schools and government officials.
“Because of State Farm and their generosity we are able to provide something this community desperately needs—a youth-led project to promote understanding of local lead-in-water issues and community education by youth on ways to lessen the dangers,” said Bob Guarasci, chief executive officer of NJCDC. “At the same time, this service-learning approach will build skills in members of the Paterson Youth Council, better preparing them to be our leaders of tomorrow.”
Some of those leaders of tomorrow expressed excitement at undertaking the study and the public education campaign.
Adim Oxna, a senior at International High School, said he is excited to be part of the program.
“Water testing provides clarity to each individual, informing them that their water is clean and not toxic. If children come in contact with lead from their water supply, it can harm their health,” Oxna said.
Oxna is the president of the Paterson Youth Council. He said it’s important to inform parents about high levels of lead in drinking water so they can take steps to protect their children.
“This opportunity to work on something that concerns the health of Patersonians, mainly the younger kids, excites me, to just be going out there with the mindset of having a positive outcome at the end, and making a difference in the lives of those in my community,” Egypt Haslam, a senior at Rosa Parks High School, said.