Diminishing waste in local oceans is an important mission for third-grader Lilly Kate Paban.
In fact, she has been motivated to start an afterschool program at her Learning Gate Community School, in Lutz, to both educate fellow students and to get them to go outdoors to take action.
She was first inspired when her then-science teacher, Christopher Bell, explained to the class the plight animals face when they mistakenly consume plastic littered in the sea.
Lilly Kate has always loved animals, especially dolphins. In fact, her dream came true when she got the opportunity to swim alongside one.
Her care for wildlife compelled her to help in some way, and she asked three of her friends at school for support.
“I gathered my friends and was like, ‘we should start a club to help the environment.’
“Our goal is to clean up most of the plastic in the oceans so that none of the animals get extinct,” the 9-year-old explained.
Once the girls devised a plan for an environmental club, they approached their principal with the idea, which was met with approval.
In building support, Lilly Kate recruited her mother, Joelle, as a club volunteer.
Joelle admitted she was shocked at first, unaware of her daughter’s good cause, but willing to help.
“How can I say no to my kid?” Joelle responded with a smile. “I’m going to support any endeavor my child wants to do.”
While the club is in the early stages, plans are already being established.
The girls have decided their target audience to join is second grade to seventh grade students.
They would also like to collect membership fees in order to fund group trips and further their cause in protecting wildlife.
Lilly Kate attributes her independence and go-getter mindset to her mother, who takes her and her younger sister, Stellie, to school.
Joelle has her own executive assistant business. On their commute, the girls often hear their mother on the phone discussing her company.
That business savvy helped Lilly Kate and her friends form the blueprint for the afterschool program.
“I couldn’t be any more proud,” Joelle stated. “This is something that they want to give back to nature, and do their tiny part in this world.”
However, the girls’ efforts were just beginning. They sent a handwritten letter to the Tampa tech company Tribridge – asking for whatever support it could offer.
The letter reached the company by Friday, May 10 and that following Monday, the girls got quite a surprise while in school.
Pete Loach, IT manager at Tribridge, personally donated seven laptops to help move the club forward.
“Just what a tiny letter can do, can make a big change,” Lilly Kate mentioned.
Joelle and her husband, Mario, also extend gratitude to Bell for helping spark their daughter’s interest in environmental awareness through his class.
Both parents attested to the teacher’s dedication toward his students.
“This guy’s life [is] these children,” Joelle said. “He brought passion.”
Now with new laptops, the group can conduct proper research and track the oceans’ red tide, Lilly Kate said.
She added that there are plans to do summer beach cleanups before the program officially starts next semester.
With the initiative of several third-graders, many kids can learn to carry the mantle for a cleaner and safer tomorrow.
Published May 29, 2019
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