Environmental Sustainability class puts on second successful benefit concert


Maria Newton

Senior Noah Wright performs a kazoo solo at the Pwest for Flint benefit concert. The concert was held by the Honors Environmental Sustainability class to raise money for the victims of the Flint, Michigan water crisis. “Playing kazoo was a fun and unique way to spice up our music,” Wright said. “I wanted to contribute in whatever way I could to the people of Flint.”

The tradition of altruism from the Honors Environmental Sustainability class lived on in the second annual benefit concert, Pwest for Flint. The city of Flint, Michigan is still without clean drinking water after a pipe crisis in 2016 where their tap water was contaminated with lead and E. Coli.

“[Flint] does not have access to clean water. I think we take for granted that we have access to things without even thinking about it,” science teacher Amy Van-Matre Woodward said. “The original thought was that we always should give when we can.”

Last winter, the first-ever benefit concert raised money for the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico to provide them with clean water. While the new Honors Environmental Sustainability class was the powerhouse behind this project, the leads from last year, seniors Dani Fischer and Harper Stewart, were still the brains.

“Even though Harper and I are no longer in the Environmental Sustainability class, that class and that project were some of the most defining moments in my high school career,” Fischer said. “So when the time for the concert rolled around again, it was a no-brainer that we wanted to help out.”

The choice of Flint was made because the class at that point in the year was focusing on clean water availability for the world. They wanted to raise money for fellow Americans who were struggling with this issue.

“Flint is closer to home [than Puerto Rico],” Stewart said. “People need to get their heads out of their butts. It is really hard sometimes to see all the things happening around you, but the fact that there are people in the United States and abroad that don’t have water is crazy.”

It is really hard sometimes to see all the things happening around you, but the fact that there are people in the United States and abroad that don’t have water is crazy.”

— senior Harper Stewart

All of the proceeds from the concert admissions, prize tickets and food sales went to the Flint Water Fund.

“We had no expectations for how much money we would raise because this is still such a new tradition,” Fischer said. “We could have sold literally one piece of pizza and I would have been ecstatic. Anything at all helps this community.”

The concert featured five local bands: Sandy’s Stringers, Vague Topic, Stir Fry, Cats with Soup and Goodnite. All bands featured students, but Vague Topic did not include any West students. The bands were volunteers and received no compensation for their time.

“I did this concert because last year I had a whole lot of fun doing it,” senior and Cats with Soup frontman Justin Cupps said. “There’s a certain transcendental experience of playing music, especially with people who are talented and who you enjoy being around. So, being able to play music that we enjoy with my friends for a really good causeーthere’s nothing more I could ask for from a performance.”

This year, the concert raised more than $1,400 for the Flint Water Fund.

“I feel like it is hard when [a project] is like your baby for so long, and although I feel like it exceeded my expectations, I had hoped it would have exceeded them even more,” Stewart said. “But, I’m definitely happy with how it turned out.”

The tradition is expected to continue even after Fischer and Stewart, the founders, graduate. Some students in Honors Environmental Sustainability are already planning ahead for next year.

“I think it is important for everyone to understand what’s going on, not just in St. Louis and Parkway West, but all around the world,” junior Charlotte Zera said. “I’ve seen all the fun the seniors have had planning this and, personally, I love the Environmental Sustainability class. The concert has always seemed to be successful and fun for everyone and I hope I can help continue that.”

Overall, the benefit concert was an altruistic event and Van-Matre Woodward is ecstatic that her students are actively helping those in need.

“It’s fun to watch students take a project and run with it,” Van-Matre Woodward said. “It’s very satisfying, like a parent watching their children perform on stage or in a sporting event. You’re just proud of them.”