Conservationist

Ava Werner stands in her Port Orange backyard. She raised money for water bottle filling stations to be installed at Creekside Middle School.

Ava Werner, 13, who attends Creekside Middle School in Port Orange, liked the idea of having water bottle fillers on campus.

Ava said her science teacher, Kimberly O’Connell, in April asked the students to come up with an Earth Day Challenge on ways to make the campus eco-friendlier. An immediate way to reduce single use plastics on campus, and provide students and staff with cold, filtered drinking water, emerged – installing water bottle filling stations, which the school, unlike some others, did not have.

Working tirelessly over the summer, she obtained funding and permission for three filling stations on her campus. Two were installed in November and another one is pending.

“I've been to airports and public parks that had them and I just think it is an easy way to cut down on single use plastics,” Ava said. “I bring a stainless-steel water bottle to school every day. Most of the time I’m finished by third period and, if not third period, by lunch. You used to have no other option then but to buy a plastic one. If you were to use the old water fountain, it doesn’t work. You can’t fill up your bottle, you can only get it half way where it spills over and makes a mess. So, I decided to do something about it.”

Her father, George Werner, is a carpenter for the world-famous folk/rock band Mumford and Sons. The band, along with manager Adam Tudhope, established “The Gentlemen of the Road Fund” in 2016. The band’s website states, “This entity has and will continue to donate money to charities fighting for social justice and common good around the world, and will support the efforts of non-profit organizations doing commendable work on a global, local and urgent scale.”

It was a logical decision for Ava to reach out to the band’s charity to see if she could obtain financial assistance to get the filling stations, especially knowing the band’s personal commitment to eco-friendly tours and implementation of their own backstage greening program.

“I wrote them an email and I was expecting maybe $100 or $200 would be awesome,” she said. “I was not expecting that they would be willing to pay for three of them because they are $1,250 apiece. I spent a good portion of my summer looking at the (filling station) models, visiting other schools that had them already, calling the district asking if there is a certain company, type, model that you need me to use.”

Mr. Werner said, “We figured they would give us something to get started. I’m really proud of her. I don’t think I did anything of this magnitude when I was her age. It’s impressive. She spent her vacation time (on it). She made it look easy, but I would perceive it as a daunting task. I think more young people are taking action.”

Allison Werner, Ava’s mother, said” I’m happy that all the kids and the staff have fresh, filtered, clean water to drink. I think a lot of staff members and kids for years to come are going to benefit from it, so it’s pretty amazing. There were a lot of moving pieces involved and she really invested her time to figure out the best options for her school.”

Ava also obtained advice from BeCause Water for how best to proceed. BeCause Water is a nonprofit with the mission of helping communities improve access to clean drinking water. The chosen stations are ADA compliant.

“I think there is a lot of work that can still be done at the school to make it more eco-friendly, but it’s a great start,” Ava said. “Especially living in Florida right near the beach, you want to do everything you can to protect it.”

Kim Short, treasurer of Creekside’s PTSA, stated in social media, “Ava is one of our students at Creekside, and the one who’s hard work secured the initial funding to place three of these units at Creekside.”

Ms. Short also noted Matthew Thurmaier donated about $3012, so Osteen Elementary School, and Coronado and Chisholm elementary schools in New Smyrna Beach could get water fountains/bottle filler stations. The Read-Pattillo PTA paid $1,004 for one at the New Smyrna Beach school.

Other schools in Volusia County, including Cypress Creek Elementary in Port Orange already have water bottle filling stations. Creekside Middle School started its inaugural Go Green club this school year with Ms. O’Connell serving as adviser.

Ava is a straight-A student and is already considering a career in environmental law. Her younger sister Sofia, 10, attends Sweetwater Elementary School.

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