Voices This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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     The average lifespan of the American woman is 77 years, which is not enough time. You need to use your years well. I’ve found that working toward a goal that helps others (as well as myself) counts as good time management and allows me to get the most from each day. The best objective is to help those who lack their own voices. With this principle in mind, I began a project to save the threatened population of the native Ohio brook trout. I’ve been working at it for four years, and each year brings more habitat preservation and a more educated community.

I didn’t know very much about the brook trout, let alone that they were a 3,000-year-old species in need of a spokesperson. I soon found that they had been brought from Canada by the glaciers but have survived in only two fragile streams in Ohio, even though they had once been abundant in every stream in our area. I decided to ask experts to help me identify why this species was dying. I recruited friends, and we worked with the Chagrin River Watershed Partners, the Geauga Park District, University School and the Geauga Sewer and Water District, as well as others.

I’m often asked how to start a project like mine, and I’ve suggested going straight to the experts, based on my experience and how willing they were to help. After lots of research, reading, and meetings, I realized that the human population was responsible for the brook trout’s declining population. Pollution from humans had gotten into the streams, depleting the water of oxygen, and essentially suffocating many species. Humans were also having a profound effect on the temperature, which must remain below 70 degrees for the trout to survive. People were destroying the buffer areas - the vegetation around streams - and thus eliminating the shade by depleting the roots of the plants and trees that filtered harmful chemicals. Also, storm drains led directly to the streams, bringing with them harmful substances. Homeowners didn’t realize how their actions could affect the trout.

After learning all that humans had done to harm it, I decided to work to preserve the native Ohio brook trout with a dual-plan: education and preservation. First, I held information days at an organic food market, where my friends and I handed out pamphlets and had customers complete surveys about the trout, preservation of the habitat, and things they could do to help. I took a trip to Sandusky, Ohio to see a working brook trout hatchery with a science teacher and his students.

I decided to try to get the message out on a national level so I entered a science competition for middle-school students with the goal of solving a problem in the community. After my friends and I were selected from eight teams in the country to receive a gold medal, I began to enter more competitions. I’ve won local, state, national and international awards for my efforts, and even met President Bush! Although I’m overjoyed with each award, I realize that the real prize is that I have had the opportunity to talk about this important issue all over the nation, with each opportunity bringing the story of the brook trout to more people.

The habitat of the brook trout is slowly improving, thanks to my community. Since beginning the initiative, I’ve spoken at local museums, conferences and community groups. Volunteers from my community have joined the effort. This newfound responsibility has opened many doors for me!

At the end of the day, though, those without voices of their own will feel the positive effect of teens’ efforts only if my generation realizes that we have the power to do anything we put our minds to. In a few years, we will be the leaders, so we need to think seriously about what is important and start taking action. It is up to us to voice our opinions, to work to change things, and to mold this world into a place we want to live when we grow up.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the May 2006 Teen Ink Environment Contest.






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