Former Newton College and Career Academy students Esther Adewumi and Jennah Waters in 2018 brought the Environmental Pollution Pandemic Club and accompanying app to life in an effort to curb waste, increase accountability and improve the health of their part of the world.
by Michelle Floyd
A project started by two high schoolers continues to progress even after their graduation. Newton College and Career Academy students Esther Adewumi and Jennah Waters in 2018 breathed life into what was then known as the Environmental Pollution Pandemic (EPP) Club and app. Their aim? To allow high school students to track the progress of their recycling efforts and have points converted into volunteer hours that they may need on transcripts for college, scholarships and jobs, all while helping maintain a cleaner environment.
“We as students needed it, and the community needed it,” said Adewumi, who also attended Alcovy High School. “It’s sad to see litter everywhere.”
On the free platform, students can create an account and upload photos of recycled products like paper, aluminum and glass. The app tracks how much material was collected, and an algorithm calculates the data into community service hours. Adewumi and Waters, with the help of some likeminded classmates and school staff members, worked on the project until their graduation in 2021. They held meetings, conducted studies, collected data, built the app and afforded a group of trial students the opportunity to use it.
Although the onset of the historic coronavirus pandemic in 2020 changed their course, it did not stop them from moving forward. Neither did the girls’ graduation. Adewumi continues on with the project, now called the Environmental Protection Program, and seeks funding for it by meeting with current NCCA students via Zoom while she attends Mercer University in Macon.
“I not only wanted to leave an impact on my community, but I wanted to be part of a project that not only worked but thrived during a global pandemic,” current NCCA student Tatom Curtis said. “I hope that this project will flourish more than ever before. To think it started with two students, has made its way through a pandemic and now has a fully formed officer team, I have no doubt that it will have a successful future. The message it represents truly does matter.”
The team continues to recruit students, hold cleanups, organize meetings and develop the app.
“I really wanted to continue the project because it’s a very important issue,” Adewumi said. “Even though there are a lot of obstacles, I want to get it done and didn’t want to give up on it. Hopefully, one day, it won’t just be for the career academy. It will be for all students in Newton County.”
Adewumi acknowledged the potential for the project to go even further.
It has already been awarded a grant from Snapping Shoals EMC. Meanwhile, Waters, who is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in history and comparative literature at Oglethorpe University, was recognized by the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta. She received the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor a scout can earn. To be eligible for the award, girls are required to work a minimum of 80 hours thoroughly investigating an issue that inspires them, building a team to address the issue and educating others to join in supporting their cause. In March, Waters, of local Girl Scout Troop 10545, was publicly recognized at The Battery at Truist Park, along with more than 100 fellow Girl Scout Gold awardees from across Atlanta. She was the only scout from Newton County.
“It’s sad to see litter everywhere.”Esther Adewumi
“Their projects are built for sustainability, so they will continue long past their direct involvement,” said Kathy Neely, service unit director for Newton County Girl Scouts. “Girl Scouts who earn their Gold Award have met standards of excellence that will develop them as our leaders of tomorrow.”
Adewumi continues to apply for awards to help build out the app, all while seeking other funding and support to expand the program. The Snapping Shoals grant, which was sponsored by Datha Curtis, the library media specialist at NCCA, went toward purchasing supplies to promote the EPP club and helping spread the message of recycling.
“I hope that the club can eventually partner with the community to make recycling and sustainability a way of life in Newton County,” Curtis said. “I enjoy seeing the students’ passion for recycling that extends beyond a classroom assignment. It has become something that I hope will sustain itself for many years to come.”