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Program helps Aspinwall Catholic school students grasp importance of air quality

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:18 p.m.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Will Koloc and Colleen Mooseman, students at Christ The Divine Teacher Catholic Academy hang the green flag representing a good air quality day. At left is DEP Deputy secretary Vince Brisini.

Ethan Grainy takes his job as chief air quality officer seriously.

The fifth-grade student at Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy in Aspinwall is part of a group of students who monitor the air quality levels in the area and raise a flag each day to signify how safe the air is.

The program is funded through a $16,000 grant received by the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) from the Southwest Pennsylvania Air Quality Partnership. Students check the website airnow.gov for that day's reading and then raise the appropriate flag.

Christina Salvi, a science teacher at the school, said she learned about the program after researching for an environmental organization to work with.

She said the students have had fun raising the flag and learning about the air around them.

“They loved it, they really enjoyed it,” Salvi said.

Rachel Filippini, executive director of GASP, said the group has funding to cover 25 schools.

The group provides information to get the students started with the program. Then the students take over.

“It's empowering them,” Filippini said. “They're checking the forecast, they're stringing up the right color flag. They're acting as the spokespeople at their school in helping to educate their peers, educators and parents.”

Jewell Condosta, a sixth-grade student, said she has learned how air quality can effect others and what to do if the air is listed as dangerous.

“If it was not as good, like orange or yellow, I would be more cautious,” Condosta said.

Vince Brisini, deputy secretary for the Office of Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said having students take charge of the program will help get the message about clean air to their families.

“If you want the parents to think about things, have the kids tell them,” Brisini said.

Tom McGee is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 1513, or tmcgee@tribweb.com.

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