Water way to go

Brent Brown | Daily NewsGreensburg Community High School juniors Drew Comer (second from left) and Taylor Gramman (third from left) cut the ribbon on a new water bottle filling station that was installed at the school over Christmas break. Students, teachers and other staff believe the project reduces waste and promotes healthy habits. Seen here with the students are GCHS principal Grant Peters (far left), Greensburg Community Schools superintendent Tom Hunter (second from right) and GCHS Food Services director Connie Million (far right).

GREENSBURG – Two Greensburg Community High School juniors worked with several local businesses to bring a refreshing change of pace to their school’s cafeteria – one they hope will promote healthy habits and help make students environmentally conscious now and in the future.

Drew Comer and Taylor Gramman’s fall semester Chautauqua project earned them both an A from teacher John Pratt, but their unique contribution to the GCHS lunchroom also netted praise from their superintendent, principal and food services director who believe the students’ effort, after only a couple weeks of use, is already paying positive dividends.

Comer and Gramman reached out to about a dozen Greensburg businesses to receive funding to purchase a new water bottle refilling station they could have installed in their school cafeteria. Gramman said inspiration for the project came from other nearby schools that had set out to do much the same thing.

She and Comer called the businesses and sent letters requesting their help as part of the project, which is a requirement in all of Pratt’s classes and focuses on community service. The students are essentially given carte blanche to come up with an idea that, in ways small and large, can be beneficial to the Decatur County community.

As of Wednesday morning, the project had saved close to 1,000 water bottles from the trash can or recycling bin as students and faculty have been using the filling station to top off their drinks instead of opting for new ones, thus reducing the amount of waste.

In a letter thanking businesses for their donations – which totaled close to $1,000 – the Comer and Gramman added that the filling station encourages students to drink filtered water and cuts down on the spread of germs.

After Greensburg Community Schools director of maintenance Tim Kane and his crew installed the fountain during the students’ holiday break, Comer and Gramman returned to school to find that their project had been wholeheartedly accepted by the student body.

“It got a positive reaction,” said Comer, the son of Kurt and Heather Comer. “Everybody seems to really like it.”

Gramman, whose parents are Doug and Jeri Gramman, and Comer said the rave reviews for the filling station have them feeling “really good,” particularly as both students are aware the fountain will serve the Pirates of tomorrow as well as it does today’s student body.

“It will be here for years to come to help everyone,” commented Comer.

It’s clear that the filling station is already making a positive impact, and school faculty were quick to tout Comer and Gramman’s work as just the thing the school needed.

The project originators were joined by Greensburg Community Schools superintendent Tom Hunter, GCHS principal Grant Peters and GCHS food services director Connie Million for a ribbon cutting ceremony in the school’s cafeteria Wednesday morning that was organized to unveil the project to the community.

All three had kind words for the students.

“We like to see student-driven projects like this,” said Hunter. “These are great kids who had an awesome idea. These are our leaders of the future.”

The superintendent said that students learn how to take on the larger tasks of adulthood through projects such as this, and in this case, he said Comer and Gramman saw a need at the school and addressed it.

Peters said the filling station exemplifies the students’ “persistent and commitment” to seeing a project through, and that the two juniors recognized a need and set out to find a process that would make it a reality.

Million said the filling station has helped make her job a little easier by cutting down on bottle waste. At the same time, it’s promoting student health by making filtered water readily available. Million noted that few children and teens – let alone adults – drink enough water. The mere presence and accessibility of the filling station has helped on that front as well.

Million said a second station, ideally, could be located in the hallways of the school, giving students another opportunity to refill their water bottles between classes.

But to make that happen, Comer and Gramman need the community’s help.

The students have already begun work on collecting funds for an additional filling station. Donations toward the project may be made by calling Pratt at GCHS at 812-663-7176.

See the sidebar to this story for a full list of the businesses who contributed to the first GCHS filling station.

The arrival of the spring semester heralds the start of another round of Chautauqua projects as well as the larger event.

GCHS teacher Heather Comer (Drew’s mother) who is assisting Pratt in the organization of the spring show, said the theme is “Anything is Possible.” With that in mind, organizers are hoping to attract “big name” guests who will speak to students and the community.

Past events have brought musicians, actors, civil rights leaders, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, 9/11 and Holocaust survivors and many more to GCHS. The project originated while Pratt was teaching at North Decatur High School.

Comer said students from other schools attended the fall Chautauqua, an event that examined discrimination and was headlined by the mother of a young social activist who was killed while protesting a White Nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virigina last August. She and Pratt are hopeful that more students will be inspired to join the Pirates this spring for an event Pratt has said is intended to “celebrate diversity and the greatness within all of us.”

Past Chautauqua programs and numerous school events can be viewed on the school’s GTV YouTube page at youtube.com/user/gtvpirates.

Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056; brent.brown@greensburgdailynews.com

The following individuals and businesses donated toward Drew Comer and Taylor Gramman’s water filling station project at Greensburg Community High School. To donate toward the student’s goal of installing a second filling station, call GCHS at 812-663-7176.

Shawn Bainbridge - Bainbridge Consulting

Phil Bennett - Bennett Heating, Cooling and Electric

Greensburg’s Napoleon State Bank

Travis and Amy Ward - Ward Equipment

Weigel, Lohmueller and Weigel Optometrists

Kurt Comer - Comer Buildings

Cris Reynolds - PrimeLending

Don and Chuck Storie and family - Storie’s Restaurant

Dr. Tom Welage - Dr. Tom Welage Family Optometry

Ryan Kennelly - Kennelly and Meyer Construction, Inc.

Greensburg’s Wings and Rings

Kyle Tressler and family - Hoeing Supply, Inc.

Carol Koester - K-Fab

The GCHS Class of 2019

Joe Springmeyer and family - Springmeyer Family Insurance, Inc.