Bayonne teen Kaitlyn Quinn, inspired by the Hackensack Riverkeeper “Swimmable Waters Action Day” message that Hudson County may be the only place in New Jersey without a daily and safe natural swimmable resource, helped initiate a local "United Nations World Water Day – Clean Water Matters" essay contest. which helped celebrate the observance on March 22.
Quinn, a former Holy Family Academy student now attending Saint Dominic Academy in Jersey City, had been selected to represent Holy Family, which closed in 2013, at the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership Program (HOBY) at Monmouth University in West Long Branch.
“HOBY is a two-day conference dedicated to showing young people the significance of community service and how they are capable of making a difference in the world, even at a young age,” a spokesman said.
“The goal of the project was to promote literacy among young people, and I wanted to make the effort relevant,” Quinn said. “Even though Bayonne is surrounded by water on three sides, we have to travel many miles to enjoy beaches that we could visit just blocks away.”
“I wanted other teenagers to help raise the awareness of this issue and that we deserve clean waters,” she said. “I thought an environmental essay contest was the right choice. The environment provides us with many rewards if we nurture it. There is incredible potential for our waterways and their habitats.”
“The goal of the project was to promote literacy among young people and I wanted to make the effort relevant.” – Kaitlyn Quinn
“We need to keep asking ourselves and our leaders, ‘Why can’t Hudson County residents use their natural water sources the way that people of other counties use their natural water sources?’,” Quinn said.
The contest winners were fourth grade students Kayla Godesky of Horace Mann School and Mikayla Carrillo of Midtown Community School.
“I really hope that we clean all of the waters around Hudson County so one day we will be able to swim in these waterways,” Godesky wrote.
“Cleaner bays and rivers help everyone,” Carrillo wrote. “Residents would have places to go with their families that are safe and fun and are close to home instead of leaving the county or state.”
“Humans have the vital responsibility of maintaining a healthy environment for all organisms,” Bayonne High School winner junior Emily Szymanski noted. “Steps must be taken to achieve clean, swimmable waters for recreation and more importantly, a balanced and stable ecosystem. At the local level, communities can take an active role by supporting infrastructure upgrades.”
The essay contest was a cooperative effort among the Bayonne Board of Education, Hackensack Riverkeeper, New York/New Jersey Baykeeper, and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.
“The Hackensack Riverkeeper has always counted the city of Bayonne as one of our best friends and most active partners,” said Hackensack Riverkeeper Captain Hugh Carola. “It is no surprise that Bayonne’s young people are thinking long and hard about issues of clean water. As they live in a city built on a peninsula, they cannot help but consider such issues and how their generation can fix the problems left by shortsighted decisions made in years past. We at Hackensack Riverkeeper always stand ready to help the good people of Bayonne—especially the young—to connect with the waterways that are theirs by right.”
“New York/New Jersey Baykeeper is proud and supportive of efforts to promote the value of clean water in urban areas,” said Deputy Director Greg Remaud. “There is no tool more powerful for positive change then the thoughts and words of an individual who cares about something that is important to us all. Kaitlin's initiative is a call to action to clean and better steward our urban waterways for current and future generations.”
City students bring talents
"There's no better way to make our urban waterways healthy again than to awaken children and their families to the coastal waters all around them,” said David Wheeler, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey executive director. “The students of Bayonne are bringing their talents and enthusiasm to such an important issue that can improve the quality of life for all Bayonne residents."
“Environmental education is a priority for the school district and this partnership supports our model of education so students see the connections between their actions and the impact on the environment,” said Bayonne Public Schools Language Arts, Social Studies and Library/Media Services Director Dan Ward.
Spoils of the winners
The essay winners and their classmates now have the opportunity to study the Hackensack River Watershed on a Hackensack Riverkeeper Eco-Cruise.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.