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The Future of the Hudson

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Harlem Children’s Zone Visits Riverkeeper
By Conor Strong

Riverkeeper had a refreshing visit this summer from sixth and seventh graders at the Harlem Children’s Zone; a school founded by Geoffrey Canada aimed at breaking the cycle of generational poverty for thousands of children and families. The school was recently featured in the award-winning documentary, “Waiting for Superman.”

The visit began with a presentation by Dana Gulley, Riverkeeper’s Outreach and Development Coordinator, who explained the history of Riverkeeper. One story that grabbed attention was how Tarrytown’s General Motors plant used to dye the river a new color each week by dumping the paint it used on the cars into it. The students were inspired by the great gains Riverkeeper, its partner organizations, and concerned citizens have been able to achieve since then.

We filed onto a school bus and arrived at the docks, where we were greeted by the Launch 5 boat Captain, Greg Porteus, who was our guide for our journey on the river. After everyone was boarded and suited with lifejackets, Dana told the students about how sewage makes its way into the river through Combined Sewage Overflows or CSOs and the toll they take on the river and its inhabitants, such as the Atlantic sturgeon. As she spoke about the river ecology and delicate status of the sturgeon, one student, Odyssey, chimed in with a story of how the group had gone fishing shortly before visiting Riverkeeper. She said, “People had just thrown litter around the shore like it was nothing, but it’s not nothing. It’s the Hudson River.” It was clear from this visit that the students were impassioned about a past of disregard for our precious river, and were eager to be leaders in stewarding a cleaner and safer river for us all.

As we came to the center of the Hudson, the Westchester Police Department’s “Marine 3” pulled up alongside the Launch 5 to give the students a thrilling ride back to shore on their 900 horsepower boat. It was a great way to end the day and we all came away with a deeper appreciation for the Hudson River. I couldn’t help but think we were looking at the next generation of Riverkeepers.

Conor Strong is a Riverkeeper 2012 summer intern, and recipient of the Pace University Gabel Internship Award

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