Young Activist Inspired by Long Island Water Sentinels
Meghan Attanasio, a high school senior from Islip, New York, was introduced to the Long Island Water Sentinels in the summer of 2009 when her family participated in a water-testing event near their home on Long Island's south shore.
She so took to the experience that she returned to volunteer the next month… and the next month… and the next. Now, a year-and-a-half later, she is inspired to pursue a career in environmental science.
Meghan's parents, Michael and Elizabeth, saw an item about water testing in their local Sierra Club newsletter and called Long Island Water Sentinels leader Linda Freilich asking how they could get involved.
"Meghan was interested in pursuing Earth Science," says Elizabeth, pictured below with Meghan, "so we decided to seek out the best in the field and see what was brewing in the Sierra Club. The Water Sentinels fit the bill to see if Meg would really like working in the field."
"The whole Attanasio family showed up," says Freilich, a high school environmental science teacher in nearby Bayport. "We meet once a month on a Sunday, no matter what the weather, and Meghan has been there almost every single Sunday."
The Long Island Water Sentinels, part of the Sierra Club's Long Island Group, train and equip volunteers to do EPA-approved water testing in the field, with the goal of compiling baseline water-quality data for both the North and South Shores of Long Island.
"Not only did I discover that I loved water testing and learning more about science and the environment, I've decided to major in geology," Meghan says. "This project has not only been educational, it's also been bonding time with my family."
"It was our goal to get a water-testing kit of our own so we could test the bay, the creek, and the lake that are all within walking distance from our home," says Elizabeth. "Our son Scott also helped with the testing, and he does a lot of volunteering through the Boy Scouts. But water testing really caught on with Meg—she really enjoys doing it."
"Meghan was steadfast," says Freilich, pictured above at center, with Meghan at right. "Some Sundays 25 or 30 kids came, but sometimes only Meghan would show up—I could always count on her. Other Sierra Club volunteers could count on her, too, to do tabling or research. When Meghan was tabling at Earth Day or other events she always promoted the Water Sentinels and taught other kids about water monitoring and showed them how the equipment worked."
Now Meghan is applying for a national Pioneers scholarship through Verizon, to be put toward her college education. "This volunteer opportunity with the Water Sentinels helped shape my life in several ways, including my educational direction," she says.
Among those recommending Meghan for the Pioneers scholarship is Linda Freilich. "The Long Island Water Sentinels provide an opportunity to experience long-term endurance testing in the field," she says. "What a gift when a dedicated volunteer remains month after month, year and into the second year. We are proud to have Meghan on our team."