By PrincessSafiya Byers
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
High school students from across the city spent the last year learning about and completing projects on environmental issues through an internship with Reflo Sustainable Water Solutions.
They came together last week at Arts @ Large, 1100 S. 5th St., to share what they learned with their friends and family. Reflo is located in the same building.
Students worked about 10 to 15 paid hours a month. Reflo staff guided them through the process.
The Audubon team studied sensory gardens; the Golda Meir team focused on community clean-ups; the team made up of Milwaukee School of Languages, Rufus King and North Division students examined native plants and pollinators awareness; and students from Bradley Tech studied overconsumption in fashion.
Each project produces either literature that students can share with their peers or an event planned by the interns.
Reflo, a nonprofit, focuses on improving green spaces and sustainable water practices through education, research and the implementation of water projects.
“We want to introduce students to careers they know little or nothing about,” said Wilniesha Smith, the intern and outreach coordinator for Reflo. “Green infrastructure is a rising career in the Midwest.”
Lily Wohlt, a Rufus King student, said she sought out the program because she cares for the environment.
“I enjoyed being able to learn about a broad range of things and still being able to focus on what was important to our team,” she said. “And being paid just made it that much better.”
Other students said they got more than expected from the internship.
“I had to learn to be open-minded,” said Azaria Kelly, an intern from Golda Meir. “Even when I thought people would agree with what I thought, they didn’t, and I had to learn to be comfortable with that.”
“I never realized how much work it takes for us to have clean water,” added Oliver Rodriguez, an intern from Audubon High School. “We learned all about it when they took us to Jones Island,” the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s primary wastewater treatment plant.
Students earned certificates for their work, and many said they plan to continue environmental work after the internship is over.
“I want to be a nurse,” said Kelly. “But this has become important to me, too, so I’m going to figure out how I can do both.”
Smith said the organization is always looking for volunteers and community involvement.
“The best part of this work is the satisfaction students have once they finally understand what’s going on and how to work toward it,” she said.