ECHOing change in the Massapequa community

Alexandra Doulos, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Remember Aerify and its nascent yet powerful efforts from last year?  This year, the club has expanded into a larger organization with an even greater capacity to help the environment and community, and they’ve changed the name to ECHO.

ECHO stands for Environmental Conservation at Home Organization. The club is “looking to rebirth the earth into the new generation,” senior leader Sarah Whelan said.  The name change can be attributed to the club’s desire “to expand [their] model to address toxicity not just affecting the air, but water, soil and species,” ECHO advisor and English teacher Mr. Robert Hempel said.

However, the club has certainly not abandoned their mission to cleanse the air.  

“The hub of our wheel is “toxicity” so we’ve kept Aerify for developing field projects associated with cleaner air, and have added H2O as our moniker for addressing water pollution, whether drinking water or pollution in streams, ponds, or the bays,” Mr. Hempel explained.  

This hub is a significant portion  of the work ECHO does.  

“My favorite part of ECHO is that we constantly take into account how the lives of the individual are being affected by the toxicity of our environment,” senior leader Despina Giasemis said.

SOIL is another branch of ECHO with the goal of confronting “the need for clean soil and natural, organic gardens as alternative to GMO’s, etc.”

Cleaning up through these various projects provide obvious incentives to benefit the Earth.  However, there are additional health benefits from an all-around cleaner environment. “We also address concern for species affected by toxicity…including children suffering from forms of cancer directly related to toxins in the environment.”

ECHO primarily intends “to be a catalyst for Massapequa Schools… but actively seeks partnerships, such as those with The Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Stony Brook’s Sustainability program, and Assemblyman Joseph Saladino” Mr. Hempel shared.  

The schedule of events for ECHO changes as the seasons change, but the club always remains actively involved in making the community a better and healthier place to live, learn, and work.

During winter, this entails expanding the club’s website “by adding information from scientific  research about environmental causes for certain cancers in children,” and   “run campaigns to tell people that they, or their businesses can make direct donations to Winthrop Hospital’s Cancer Center for Kids, right on our website!” The site can be accessed at www.mhsecho.org.

Come springtime, the club’s “focus shifts back to tree plantings, a catch and release fishing trip, our annual MHS clean up, and organic soil and gardening,” Mr. Hempel said.

“As a senior leader, I am most thrilled by the hands-on environmental projects planned and I am excited that I can connect to other nature lovers like myself,” Whelan said.

“The reward stems from the purity of our mission, and the dedication of MHS students seeking to make a difference in what some might see as too daunting a task to address” Mr. Hempel said.  

Mr. Hempel invites interested students to get involved in the club.  “I hope there are sophomore and junior leaders out there reading this article.  I hope they seek me out, or my partner in the sciences, Mrs. Friedman, for a conversation about joining with us.”  

Students involved value the time they spend helping their community.

“The great thing about ECHO is that we are a team and that we are all working towards a common goal: protect and conserve the local environment,” senior ECHO leader Alexandra Kanapes said.

As of January 4, the Massapequa Hall of Fame became the first official sponsors for the Winthrop Cancer Center for Kids ECHO fundraising project by donating $1,000  to continue the work with the cancer center and other objectives.

Mike Hannah of MHS -HOF and Robert Barrett, President of the Massapequa Chamber of Commerce were integral players in helping raise and confirm the generous donation.

This development took a substantial deal of effort.

“We have had meetings with important members of the school board as well as members of MOH who agree that these issues are vital and demand attention,” Giasemis said.  

ECHO encourages more members to join. “I enjoy creating teams where people can feel free to contribute their unique talents, as we need a very diverse skill set to grow ECHO.  We are multidisciplinary in approach, so we are all teachers and learners to each other– a collaborative–as we go forward.” Mr. Hempel said.

“We can’t change what our predecessors have done to our planet, but we sure can do our best to make it better for the future,” Whelan said about the main intent of the club.  ECHO is expanding its capacity to contribute and invites everyone to help.   

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