Get on Tap

Student Spotlight: Chantal Raguin, Anna Rychlik, and Get on Tap

Student Project Leads to Ban on Plastic Water Bottles at AB Schools

Did you know that producing the plastic, single-use water bottles that Americans consume takes 17 million barrels of oil per year? That in 2015 Americans used about 50 billion water bottles, of which only 23 percent were recycled? That 38 billion water bottles ended up in our nation’s trash?

Massachusetts has long had progressive recycling regulations, and local communities have been even more proactive. Five years ago, Concord residents voted to ban the sale of single-serving bottled water, and this year, two seniors at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School (AB)–best friends Chantal Raguin and Anna Rychlik–joined together to make similar change.

“Anna and I feel extremely lucky to be part of such an incredible school system,” Raguin said,
“and we wanted to give something back. We are both concerned about climate change and the future of our environment, so we thought it would be meaningful to help our district kickstart education in sustainable living. Bottled water seemed like the place to start: the product is unnecessary and wasteful, yet at the same time quite easy to replace. Our town water is clean, safe, and quite accessible.” They decided to find a way to reduce plastic bottle use.

Last fall, Raguin and Rychlik discovered the program Get On Tap, which helped them set goals and identify action steps. First, they contacted the District’s manager of energy, Kate Crosby, who they say “was immediately excited” about their ideas to reduce reliance on plastic water bottles.  They then met with Superintendent Glenn Brand and Facilities Director JD Head, who helped them organize group meetings with faculty. With unanimous support, Raguin and Rychlik designed their senior project around encouraging the Acton-Boxborough School District to ban plastic water bottles and educating the wider community about the environmental benefits of substituting reusable bottles for plastic. They have accomplished both goals: last month, the AB School Committee voted to ban single-use plastic water bottles.

In April, they hosted a “Get On Tap Week,” featuring a movie screening and an informational night with guest speakers Jill Appel, who led the Concord movement, and Matt Mostoller, from the Acton Department of Environmental Management. They closed the week with a pledge to “get on tap” (drink from local sources out of reusable water bottles) until Earth Day.

“It was a huge success,” said Raguin. “Our signature board was completely filled!” They also held presentations at other district schools to educate younger students.

“As we close our work at AB, we hope we empowered students to take action against climate change in any way they can,” said Rychlik, “whether that be directly in local government or in their daily habits. The latter is in some ways more important than the former for now. Greater top-down changes will take time, and smaller changes will be important in reducing the district’s carbon footprint.”

While Raguin and Rychlik won’t see the results of their advocacy first hand (they’ll be in college), they urge continuing AB students to keep the ball rolling.

Open Door has been inspired by Raguin and Rychlik to reduce our own carbon footprint, and we’ve made reusable coffee mugs, flatware, and cups available to our staff. We’re excited to see how this small change affects the amount of single use plastics we buy and throw out.

We hope you will take Raquin and Rychlik’s activism to heart, and seek opportunities in your own life to ‘Get on Tap’!

 

Anna Rychlik and Chantal Raguin hold reusuable Open Door cups at our office
Anna Rychlik and Chantal Raguin inspired Open Door to get our own reusable cups for our team.

 

For more information on how to begin a similar project in your school, workplace, or community, check out Take Back the Tap and Ban the Bottle


Planning for College Admissions, Part Three: Ranking College and University Ranking Guides

 

As college admissions gets more complicated, and menus and links on college websites spin your head, you may want to resort to the old-fashioned resource: a printed guide. Below are three top encyclopedic volumes. They are all user-friendly and comprehensive in different ways.

 

The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges

 

If you are looking for succinct summaries and honest student comments about the schools they attend, a great book to purchase is The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges.

 

For more than 40 years, this Yale Daily News guide on more than 330 U.S. colleges and universities–organized alphabetically by state–has provided high school juniors and seniors the “down low.” Nowhere else will you find so many direct quotations from students on topics such as  on-campus culture, the types and frequency of parties and the substances consumed at them, Greek life and clubs, food, and living arrangements. Student contributors also share their opinions of faculty, location, and fellow students.

 

You’ll also find the typical admissions data on recently admitted students (GPAs, average standardized test scores, diversity, and the like), as well as information on majors, international and other special programs, class size, retention rates, alumni, and, yes, tuition and fees.

 

The downside: The most recent edition was published in 2014, so beware the “list prices”: they’ve increased significantly (many by 20% and more). Yes, sticker shock is a thing outside the world of auto dealerships.

The Insiders Guide to the Colleges

41st Edition published 2014, $24.99

 

The Fiske Guide to Colleges

 

A staple in any college guidance library, this hefty tome by former education editor of The New York Times features stories associated with every one of the more than 320 US, Canadian, and UK colleges and universities covered and is packed with straightforward information you won’t find on college websites.

 

The book starts with a quiz that helps students identify what they are looking for in a school. (Think Facebook quiz telling you which Disney character you are, only more useful.)

 

Once students have found some appealing geography, size, majors, and programs, the book presents overlaps that help them locate similar choices with different types and levels of admissions requirements. Think BigFuture.CollegeBoard.com, where students plug in their dream aspects of a college, and are presented with results, except that in this case, in order for the book to work, students must first bring aspects of their personalities, talents, and goals to the fore. A little bit of self-reflection and conscious research never hurts a teen.

 

The book also includes ratings of reputation, including academic, social, and quality of life, plus every imaginable type of data; it provides parents and students all the answers they are seeking short of an in-person tour.

 

There is also a special section on “Best Buy” schools.

Fiske Guide to Colleges

2017 edition, $24.95

 

The Best 381 Colleges (Princeton Review)

 

Editors of this guide have it down. After decades of interviewing college students via paper surveys, a few years ago, they finally launched an online student survey that now reaches from 125 to 350 students on most campuses reviewed, and as many as 1,000 at large universities. The methodology is statistically sound, and the guide’s 62 ranking lists based on different criteria are incredibly comprehensive and helpful: unlike the U.S. News and World Reports rankings,  there is no reshuffling of “the best 100 colleges in the U.S.” Instead, schools are ranked by everything from politics to professors, hours students study a week to town life, prepsters and fire safety to alumni indebtedness. No kidding. It’s that good.

 

Each entry provides information from the Admissions Office as well as the student input. One of the most helpful five pages in the entire guide is how to plan from 9th grade on, including what to do with your summer. A great book of any kind opens dialogue, and this comprehensive guide does just that for students and parents alike.

The 381 Best Colleges Princeton Review

2017 edition, $23.95

 

P.S. Should you want a book with no rankings or judgments of any kind included, check out The Complete Book of Colleges 2017 edition, another Princeton Review publication. The “mega-guide” covers 1,355 colleges. 2017 edition, $29.95 (You get your money’s worth; a lot more paper went into this one!)

 

Students: If you can’t find somewhere that interests you in this guide, consider taking a gap year!