Two Buckeye Valley High School seniors were recently awarded scholarships from the Columbus Council on World Affairs (CCWA) for the projects they did about global issues.
The students, Madison Lowe and Lisa Choe, did the capstone projects as part of their completion of CCWA’s Global Scholars Diploma. Lowe and Choe, along with 207 other students, completed the three-year program which aims to help students assume roles “as responsible citizens of the world by exploring global issues, cultures and careers, and building the awareness and skills to take action.”
For their capstone projects, the students had to do research on a global issue and then create a solution within their community.
Lowe’s project focused on reducing single-use plastic pollution, in particular, straws. During her project, Lowe encouraged the community to take action against using plastic straws and advocated for paper straws. Lowe said she chose that subject for her project because of a trip she took in 2019.
“I decided to focus my project on plastic pollution because (in 2019) I had the privilege of traveling to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands,” Lowe said in an email. “Being environmentally conscious has always been important to me, but when traveling to Ecuador, it fascinated me how conscious they were about reducing single-use plastics like water bottles, straws and plastic cutlery. They were very strict about not allowing any plastic bottles or bags with us when traveling specifically to the Galapagos. This was important to them because they were really trying to protect the environment and the animals that live there. I was so interested in taking these ideas back to my own community to try and reduce our single-use plastics.”
Lowe visited 10 local businesses and spoke to operators about plastic straws and the impact they have on the community. Lowe also created an informative Instagram account to spread more information and tips to reduce plastic waste.
“When visiting the businesses in downtown Delaware, I was very nervous about the responses I would receive,” Lowe said. “I knew that what I was asking these businesses was a lot, and it was more than making one tiny little switch. I knew that it would include some added expenses to change to paper products, so I was prepared for a small response. After visiting several businesses, I was amazed at the response. Most of the businesses were being so receptive to my information and really eager to make a switch within their own companies.”
Lowe said her favorite part of the project was feeling like she made a difference in the community, and she’s happy with the work she did.
“I felt so proud,” Lowe said. “It was like a confirmation that I really had made a difference in my community and in a small way, changed the world. It showed me that if I really truly believe in something and I work hard enough at it, I can accomplish it.”
Choe focused her project on the lack of access to menstruation products, which she began to notice during her sophomore year at Buckeye Valley High School.
“It all started when I noticed at the girls bathroom at my high school that there was a lack of menstruation machines to begin with, so I saw that as a key moment to advocate for free care products to be more available to girls,” Choe said. “When I looked into the issue more, I found that it’s not only an issue with the U.S., but all over the world, especially underdeveloped countries. Only 10% of women actually have access to clean products … I think it’s a really big issue that over 500 million around the world face, but we don’t really address because it’s an uncomfortable topic for most people.”
Over the past two years, Choe advocated to administrators and was successful in getting the school to implement districtwide access to free period products at Buckeye Valley High School and Buckeye Valley Middle School.
Choe was invited to the University of Michigan Health Science and Pre-College Exposure Academy to discuss the future of public health. While there, she discussed “period poverty” to further spread awareness of the issue. Choe also presented her project at Columbus State Community College and developed a website to inform others of how important access to menstruation products is.
“I was very happy with everything I have accomplished, but there was still an unsatisfied feeling that there was more I could do and more people I could reach besides just the people in my school district,” Choe said. “It was a great feeling, but there’s more to be done. This is something I plan on pursuing in my undergrad and doing research into how a lack of period products effect women and their sanitational health … Research in general could help back what I’m stating.”
Choe said she’s thankful to staff at Buckeye Valley who “(made) this project possible and all the faculty who helped guide me in how I should address the administration.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.