Cap: courtesy of New Jersey American Water

Danielle Kearsley of New Jersey American Water; Shanti Kantha-Murray, supervisor of science, arts, & applied technology for South Plainfield; and teacher Kathleen Benton.

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The South Plainfield High School Environmental club last year was named one of three recipients of a grant from New Jersey American Water and, last week, representatives from the school were presented with a ceremonial check for close to $10,000. 

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Each year, New Jersey American Water awards environmental grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 for qualifying innovative, community-based environmental projects that improve, restore or protect watersheds, surface water and/or groundwater supplies throughout the company’s service areas. 

The South Plainfield High School’s Environmental Science Club, through a joint effort by teacher Kathleen Benton and Supervisor of Science, Arts & Applied Technology Shanti Kantha-Murray, was the recipient of a $9,804 grant. 

“The New Jersey American Water grant will help us offset costs associated with the outdoor classroom and enhancing our new greenhouse,” said Kantha-Murray, noting that the money will go toward specific items such as benches, raised planting beds, barrel planters, potting soil, and seeds as well as hydroponic and aquaponic systems.

According to New Jersey American Water, ‘environmental grants support innovative, community-based environmental projects that improve, restore and/or protect watersheds and community water supplies through partnerships.’ Grants are awarded on a competitive basis and selected by the company’s employees based on various criteria such as project goals, impact, innovation, design, collaboration, sustainability and community engagement, among other requirements. 

Through grants like this, said Benton, the school district is able to ‘enhance the curriculum beyond the scope of the classroom.’ “Through this funding, we can provide our students with hands-on opportunities to grow and to learn and to figure out what they like,” she said. “It’s so different describing things in a classroom than visually experience things. Seeing things with your own eyes; nothing compares to that.”

In 2019, New Jersey American Water awarded a total of $27,404 in environmental grants ‘to three distinguished organizations and community groups within its service area…engaged in sustainability projects to further improve water source and/or watershed protection.’ In addition to South Plainfield, the Township of West Orange’s Environmental and Open Space Commission received an $8.100 grant for its river clean-up initiative and the Master Gardner Association of Rutgers Master Gardeners Camden County received a $9,500 grant for the creation of an education garden. 

“We are proud to recognize this year’s recipients and we applaud their efforts to make a lasting impact on their communities and New Jersey as a whole,” stated Greer Thacker, an environmental specialist with New Jersey American Water.

“When you apply for grants, you don’t necessarily think you are going to get them; it’s like a wish-list for items that, for most schools, are out of the realm of regular funding,” said Kantha-Murray. “We are thankful to New Jersey American Water for grant opportunities like this one.”

In 2019, Benton and Kantha-Murray were also the recipients of a $3,875 Protein Sequencing Comes to Life Grant, which will be used to help biology students determine the amino acid sequence of proteins and the high school’s Green Team was awarded a $2,000 Sustainable Jersey grant that also went toward the outdoor classroom. 

Additionally, on Jan. 16, the South Plainfield High School Environmental Club/Green Team learned they would also be receiving a $10,000 Sustainable Jersey for Schools grant to fund the replacement of water filling stations in the school. More details on the latest Sustainable Jersey grant will be published in the coming weeks. 

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