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Students immerse themselves in 'walk to water'

Under the watchful eyes of counselor Jamie Jazdzewski and teacher Chris Metzer, sixth-grader Ashton Stansfield gets to see how much two five-gallon buckets full of water weigh and determines it wouldn’t be that easy to walk miles carrying that load. Jana Peterson/Pine Journal

A large group of Cloquet Middle School students took their own "long walk to water" Friday, when they walked just over a mile from the middle school to the boat landing at Spafford Park.

Once they arrived at the edge of the St. Louis River, group members filled the five-gallon buckets with river water, and students in grades six through eight took turns trying to walk with 40 pounds of water hanging off a sturdy branch laid across their shoulders.

"Imagine walking four and five hours a day, just to get water," said Jamie Jazdzewski, a guidance counselor and student council sponsor at the middle school.

While it may have been hard to relate on a personal level, some of the classes had recently read the New York Times bestseller, "A Long Walk to Water," a book that tells the story of two 11-year-old children in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl walks twice a day to fetch water from a pond that is two hours away from her home.

"People are drinking from ponds with water a lot dirtier than this river," Jazdzewski said, dipping a bucket in the cold brown water and pouring it out again.

Jazdzewski said each student was asked to raise a minimum of $10 to participate. Some students asked their parents to donate and some went door to door. The top student raised $160, and the school raised a total of $2,805, money that will go to WE Charity.

"The ME to WE program sponsors five pillars (Education, Water, Food, Opportunity, Health)," Jazdzewski explained. "This year our Student Council decided to support water."

Jazdzewski said WE Charity helps provide communities with clean water to drink and use for cooking; healthy sanitation facilities for washing and going to the bathroom; and infrastructure like irrigation or catchment systems to facilitate food production. WE Charity also works to educate communities about healthy hygiene practices and how to prevent waterborne disease.