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H2O for Life High School Fellowship Alumni Take on D.C. at U.S. WASH Convening 

Posted by Mitchell LeGrand on May 14

H2O for Life High School Fellowship Alumni Take on D.C. at U.S. WASH Convening

If you have had H2O for Life in your classroom, you might be familiar with the term. “WASH.” WASH is an acronym that stands for Water Access, Sanitation, and Hygiene. It is the sector that you support when you raise funds for a water project with H2O for Life. In the United States, this sector has never before come together to meet as a group. That was until last week in Washington D.C. when the first ever WASH Convening was hosted by our friends at Dig Deep, Water for People, and Vessel.

Thanks to the generous support of the Policy Team at Dig Deep, H2O for Life was able to bring 3 alumni of our High School Fellowship Program to the Convening to learn more about the American WASH Sector, serve on a Youth Panel Workshop, and advocate on the hill for a bill that will help build the sector and help provide more access to clean, safe water for people here in the United States.

Adlih Nanez (Left: a member of our first cohort, a graduate of Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet High School in Dallas, TX, and current freshman at St. Thomas in MN pursuing a degree in Social Work), Aubree Klein (Center: also a member of our first cohort, a graduate of Mounds View High School in Mounds View, MN, and current freshman at St. Olaf in MN pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies), and Paige Hebert (Right: member of the 2nd cohort, a graduating senior at Stillwater High School in MN and off to Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability next fall) all got the opportunity to fly out for the convening.

After a day of seeing some of the sights in D.C., our alumni spent the first two days of the convening learning about how the WASH Sector intersects with other areas of their interests. Adlih as a Social Work student attended a panel on how water access impacts the unhoused on Skid Row in Los Angeles. Paige attended a session on Policy and Water Law to explore her interest in environmental law. Everyone joined Aubree for the Climate Change workshop, something that our young people are very passionate about! Much like the H2O for Life High School Fellowship, they were learning from a variety of experts from different fields about water issues and their approaches to solving them.

On the second day of the conference, our youth helped lead the workshop “Put Us In The Room! The Benefits of Engaging Young People in Decision Making,” which was moderated by Bebe Schaefer of Water&. Paige sat on the panel as a representative of the high school community, along with Jan Nowak, Sustainability and Social Impact Operations Analyst at Xylem, and Lorenzo Clay, a Water Purification Special Projects Coordinator at Birmingham Water Works Board. They answered questions about how to engage youth in policy around water and what it will take to open this sector up for young people to get involved more. After the panel, Adlih, Aubree, Paige, and Mitchell (the facilitator of the High School Fellowship they all participated in) all led small group discussions with the attendees to talk about strategies to engage young people more in advocating for change in the WASH Sector. We couldn’t be more proud of the fellowship alumni and how they represented during the workshop! They were the talk of the conference!

The last morning came quickly and included an advocacy training before the youth were off to Capitol Hill to advocate for the WASH Access Data Collection Act. Adlih, Aubree, and Paige went to 50 different Senate offices that day to get the word out about the bill and get the information in staffers’ hands to inform them about the American Water Crisis and how this bill will help us solve it. The day was so full that we just barely made it to the airport for the flight back!

This is the impact of H2O for Life programs. These young people, students who joined our high school fellowship program, were able to attend a big and important conference and that same week go and advocate on the hill for the issues they care about! This programming is empowering! These students are becoming lifelong advocates and we couldn’t be more proud of them!

To learn more about our High School Fellowship Program, visit our programs page or reach out to our Programs Manager, the Facilitator of the High School Fellowship, Mitchell LeGrand: mitchell@h2oforlifeschools.org.

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