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UT Elementary students step into the lives of African children at annual fundraiser

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UTES students walk 6 kilometers around the trails of Ladybird Lake to raise money for their sponsored school in Africa.

Carrying bottles filled with water from Lady Bird Lake, UT Elementary’s fifth-grade class walked 6 kilometers (nearly 4 miles) around the Hike-and-Bike Trail at the seventh-annual Walk4Water event on Saturday, April 2. The event was hosted by H20 for Life, a nonprofit that promotes social awareness through service-learning projects.

As part of UT Elementary’s social and emotional curriculum, the fifth-graders learned about the scarcity of clean drinking water in Africa and the sacrifices young girls their age must make in order to survive. In class, the students learned about the water crisis in Kenya, where adolescent girls are burdened more so than boys with the responsibility of providing water for their families and schools. Although the majority of students at UT Elementary qualify for free and reduced lunches, they often remark on how much they take for granted, says fourth- and fifth-grade teacher Scarlett Calvin.

“We focus on accountability, responsibility, cooperation—and Walk4Water is a great way for them to connect to all of those character traits,” says Calvin, who coordinated this year’s fundraiser. “In the fifth grade, our social studies curriculum isn’t just about history, it’s about stepping into other people’s lives.”

Leading up to the event, the students worked on a range of projects, including promotional videos, T-shirt sales and a coin drive. All proceeds will go toward building water catchment tanks and latrines for this year’s sponsored school, the Nasaruni Academy for Maasai Girls in Kenya. This year, the students raised more than $1,100, exceeding their goal of $1,040. . Last year the fifth-graders exceeded their goal and reached $2,600, and in 2014, they raised more than $1,700.

“We want to build as much money as we can to build a well so the Nasaruni girls in Kenya don’t have to walk so many miles with five jugs of water on their backs,” says Reagan Sims, a student in Calvin’s fifth-grade class. “Everybody should be equal, and they should have what we have.”

Calvin is proud of the work her students have accomplished and enjoyed watching them take their first steps—literally—toward becoming global citizens at the culminating Walk4Water event. This is one of many service-learning projects embedded in the school’s curriculum. Last fall, Calvin’s class participated in the Buddy Walk and raised $1,700 for the Down Syndrome Association pf Central Texas.

“Our philanthropy projects help prepare students for success in school and in their daily lives,” she adds. “They often tell me that they really appreciate what they have, and that they’re able to understand and respect others outside their community.”