Lemont High School students host Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin

Lemont High School students host Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin

Guided by a mission for the State of Illinois to become a national leader in the area of conservation of land and water resources, Lemont High School students hosted Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) on campus to advocate for their “30 by 2030” resolution. Impressed by their initiative, Durkin committed to introduce a resolution within the Illinois House of Representatives and invited students to testify in support of the resolution.

After listening to the students’ presentation, Durkin addressed the students and teachers who had gathered and lauded the students for their passion and initiative, noting how important it is for today’s students to be at the forefront of important issues such as conservation. Durkin mentioned that clean energy jobs are a major initiative for the state, and encouraged students to support candidates who support their ideas, regardless of party ideology.

Durkin ended his remarks by committing to introduce a version of the “30 by 2030” resolution in the Illinois House of Representatives within the next week, and invited students to continue their advocacy and accompany him to testify in support of the resolution in Springfield.

The students’ proposed “30 by 2030” resolution urges the State of Illinois to preserve 30 percent of its land and water resources by 2030. A version of the resolution (SR1008) was sponsored in the Illinois State Senate by Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) and Sen. David Koehler (D-Springfield), and after testimony from Pontiac High School students, passed unanimously in the Senate Committee for Environment and Conservation.

The “30 by 2030” resolution encourages the State of Illinois to redouble its efforts to work with various entities to conserve the state’s land and water for present and future generations to enjoy, while also protecting private property rights and traditional land uses. Bicameral approval by the Illinois General Assembly would cap a collaborative effort among many high schools that began with a simple Google Hangout.

In December, students from Lemont High School and Pontiac High School joined a Google Hangout to discuss their efforts to bring back alligator snapping turtles in Illinois, as well as to increase overall awareness of conservation and the health of the environment. Pontiac teacher Paul Ritter is the founder of “Operation Endangered Species,” and Lemont High School currently serves as host to two alligator snapping turtles.

A shared enthusiasm led to a collaborative effort to host the “Challenge Accepted” science summit on January 30 at Pontiac High School. Students from Lockport High School, Whitney Young High School, Pekin High School, Seneca High School and Champaign Centennial High School all joined, as did a representative from Ramstein High School in Germany.

At the summit, students discussed environmental efforts ranging from recycling and alternative energy sources to endangered species and conservation. Liaisons from the Environmental Protection Agency were on hand to support and challenge students during sessions and through informal conversations.

Energized by the momentum from the “Challenge Accepted” summit, students from Lemont and Pontiac began collaborating to write the “30 by 2030” resolution. The process to create the resolution began in Communications class, which included creating Screencastify presentations on writing a resolution, as well as creating and completing witness slips for the Illinois Legislature. The video on witness slips was shared with high schools throughout the state. Members of the Science Club shared postcards with Lockport High School students that encouraged legislators to accept the challenge and support the resolution.

Several agencies and conservation experts have supported the students’ journey along the way, including Joe Duff, the retired cofounder of Operation Migration and the current Chief Executive Officer of WildAid Canada Society.

Nearly 30 Lemont High School students have been involved with this project, including students in Communications classes and members of the Science Club. English teacher Patty Melei serves as the teacher for the Communications students who have been involved, while Science teacher Karen Aleman sponsors the Science Club.