Chicago students fight to keep environment clean

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Something fishy has been going on inside a North Side school for the past few months, and on Friday, to celebrate Earth Day, the student's showed off their work.

FOX 32’s Larry Yellen reports on how these students, and others around the city, demonstrated their support for a clean environment.

Third graders from Francis Parker School released tiny rainbow trout into Diversey Harbor. It was kind of like graduation day for dozens of little fish that helped them understand the importance of clean water.

FOX 32: What did you learn about the environment?

“How much sewage and stuff we're putting into it and how much we need to protect it,” said third grader Amy O’Brien.

“I learned that the environment always isn’t as clean as it should be and that we have to do tests on water and all of that to keep it clean,” said third grader Cal Kinnear.

The students have been raising the trout since last fall in their classroom.

“Testing the water, making sure that we provided an in-class environment that was as close as possible to match this type of habitat,” said science teacher James Audrain.

“We've trained the kids how to actually test the water for nitrates, ammonia, other pollutants that we want to be sensitive to,” said trout unlimited volunteer John Frankot.

These kids on the lakefront weren't the only youthful advocates for the environment this week. On Thursday, a group of teenagers from Chicago descended on Springfield to lobby for clean jobs.

“We definitely are the underdog. We’re younger, we don’t' have a lot of experience,” said student lobbyist and ITT student Brian Gomez.

Gomez spent Thursday in Springfield with members of the Chicago Youth Alliance for Climate Action. They met with legislators and pushed legislation to require increased use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. So, what was it like competing with other power brokers at the state capital?

“As young people, you have to be a little bit more assertive than you usually are. And not be intimidated by age difference or experience,” Gomez said.

“When we go down there and make our voices heard, someone's hearing us, even if they're tyring to ignore us,” said student lobbyist Gloria Olidapo.

The tab for the student's trip was picked up by a group called Mom's Clean Air Force, an organization interested in promoting clean air and healthy kids. They see value in having the kids deliver the message.

“When somebody can come into a legislator’s office with a personal story, with a point of view that maybe the legislator hasn't heard, it's a hundred times more powerful than anything else,” said Kelly Nichols of Mom’s Clean Air Force.

Even possibly more powerful, she says, than the influence of money in politics.