2009-03-13 / Community

Local Students Become Civic Activists

While some local students may have spent their winter breaks on skiing vacations or trips to Florida, high school students Emilia Jerez and Rebecca LaMadrid chose to devote their break to civic action. The two girls stationed themselves at Waldbaum's in Rockaway Park and collected hundreds of signatures of residents opposed to severe budget cuts to the Wildlife Conservation Society's parks (the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, the Bronx Zoo and the Brooklyn and Bronx Botanical Gardens).

The petition reads: "I care about the environment, conservation, education and economic development in New York State. I urge Governor Paterson to continue to fund and invest in our state's 76 zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums. Please do not disproportionately cut their funding this year and then completely eliminate their funding next year … This dismantling of a successful 25-year funding program is disastrous. The funding for Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums … helps to educate the current and next generation of environmental stewards. These institutions are the economic drivers that bring jobs and a tremendous amount of stimulus to our state's economy with 10 million visitors annually. The Bronx Zoo and N.Y. Aquarium, alone, generated more than $289.6 million in economic activity in FY 2008. We know we need to be a part of a budget solution and that is all we are asking. Don't cut with an ax, but with a strategic scalpel."

Emilia is a student at Rachel Carson High School for Coastal Studies in Brooklyn. Rebecca is a student at Channel View School for Research in Rockaway Park.

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