Great Lakes Credit Union and Little Lake County are proud to bring you Kirby Kids: Kids. Doing. Good. This program recognizes a child each month that is doing good in their community and brings you their stories of determination, hope and goodwill.
Students at Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake not only receive an education, but learn the importance of the environment and the value of community. Seventh grade students Grayson and Ben began what the school calls a “Culminating Project” last year, and not only completed a requirement for graduation, but had an incredible experience advocating for defenseless animals and creating community awareness. Culminating Projects are two-year endeavors focusing on the environment and the community. Grayson, a Mundelein resident, and his friend Ben, a Gurnee resident, joined forces to make a big difference for Blanding’s turtles, animals that are endangered in Lake County.
Blanding’s turtles are semi-aquatic turtles that have been listed as threatened in Illinois since 1999 and as endangered by the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board since 2009. These turtles depend on wetlands and accessible dry land, and females have been known to travel great distances to lay their eggs on well-drained soil. Research shows that the biggest threat to the turtles is road mortality (turtles hit by cars). Grayson and Ben learned all about the danger to the turtles presented by roadways and took action to help. Not only did the boys help save turtles, but the boys educated their communities about animal safety and preservation.
The boys first focused on their own two communities: Mundelein and Gurnee. They planned out ideas, handed out informational packets, spoke at community meetings and volunteered at events. Finally, road signs were installed alerting drivers to the areas where turtles cross the roadways. The project took a lot of time, and was very rewarding. But the two boys met with many challenges during this two-year project. While two years seemed so long for the two seventh graders, it often seemed not enough time to complete the project, and it was challenging for the boys to stay focused.
The project also required the boys to meet with public officials and speak in public. It was sometimes intimidating for the boys to work with adults, and to speak at meetings and in front of big groups. Yet the boys managed to overcome their nerves and completed their tasks successfully. And thanks to plenty of planning and hard work, the project was completed ahead of schedule.
These boys are just like other kids their age. Grayson loves swimming, reading and spending time with his family. Ben loves hockey, watches the Blackhawks and reads. Both boys credit their parents as their heroes, citing the support they have always given them, especially during their work on this project. Despite being young, and involved in other activities, these boys complete their project and made a difference in their community.
When asked how others can contribute to their cause, Grayson suggests taking notice of any wildlife crossing signs. He also directs people to the Lake County Forest Preserves to learn more about Blanding’s turtles and other endangered species in communities. Ben simply requests that we all become aware of wildlife crossing signs and advises drivers to please slow down if they see any animals crossing the road in front of them.
The boys’ efforts go beyond the Blanding’s turtle project. They have encouraged other kids to take an active role in saving the environment through simple, daily measures. By recycling, composting, turning off lights, reusing items and helping wildlife, the boys believe that we can all have a positive impact today, and in the future. By working together, the world can be a better place. These two boys are not only living proof of that, but also serve as an inspiration to all who hope to make a difference.
Each and every one of our Kirby Kids gets to meet Kirby the Kangaroo at their local Great Lakes Credit Union branch. Kirby met Grayson and Ben at their local Round Lake Beach Branch, and opened up a youth savings account in each of their names with a $100 starting balance, courtesy of Great Lakes Credit Union.
Do you know an inspirational, courageous or exceptional young person living in Lake County, (age 15 or younger) who is serving as a role model in his or her community? Help us recognize these big hearts! Nominate a child for the Kirby Kids program.
Follow this link to complete a nomination form. If your nominee is selected, we will contact you and/or the child’s guardian for inclusion in the Kirby Kids program.
For more information about the Kirby Kids, read our program introduction.