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Contest in memory of young environmentalist marks 20 years

| Thursday, April 26, 2012, 6:16 p.m.

Jake Czekaj wanted to save the environment and spent many hours talking to local children about the importance of recycling.

After Czekaj, 17, was killed in an automobile accident, his family decided to carry on his dreams and encourage children to find ways to help the environment.

Now celebrating its 20th year, the Celebrate Earth Day Contest will be hosted by the Czekaj family and is open to all Mt. Pleasant-area children in the fifth and sixth grades.

The contest is held in memory of Jake Czekaj.

"The 20th anniversary was the motivator for us to do something a little differently this year," sister Becky Dengler said. "We are asking the students this year to do a type of advertisement or something that is persuasive."

The theme for the contest this year will be "Get the Message out -- The Environment Matters."

Students have several options on how to show their creativity. They can have an entry in more than one category, but only one entry in each.

"This year the organizers of Earth Day are encouraging people to get the word out that the environment matters. Hence, we're asking our contestants to promote ways people can be good to our planet," sister Corrina Czekaj said. "We've specifically asked the contestants to create a promotional advertisement that is a poster-sized billboard, a display, or a commercial done in a PowerPoint presentation or video. This is our first year to accept video entries."

Once all the entries are turned in to the students teachers, the family gets together to judge them.

"We usually do it on Mother's Day, but this year we can't because my sister can't be there," Dengler said. "We're getting together on May 6 and we'll all judge everything together."

Dengler added that as a way to promote the contest more, she and her family took flyers to elementary schools and ran a brief presentation about the contest on the in-school channels.

"We also handed out recycled pencils to all the fifth and sixth grade students that have the 20th anniversary logo on them," Dengler said. "We're trying to get more kids interested."

Once the winners are decided, they will be recognized at a special ceremony on May 22.

All entries must be turned in to teachers by 3 p.m. May 1.

First place in every category will receive $75, second place will receive $50, and third place will receive $25.

"We always look forward to what the students create for this," Dengler said. "Every year we are amazed at their ideas."

There is also a scholarship awarded every year to a Mt. Pleasant senior in Jake Czekaj's honor.

Scholarship forms may be picked up at the high school guidance offices.

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