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St. Peter the Apostle School celebrates being a New Castle County Clean Streams champion

Students from St. Peter the Apostle School in New Castle celebrate a win in the Clean Streams challenge with Principal Carlo Testa, right, and New Castle County executive Matt Meyer. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

NEW CASTLE — There are a lot of schools in New Castle County that are bigger than St. Peter the Apostle School. But one thing that separates the New Castle school apart is its support for the Great Schools Clean Streams pledge contest.

New Castle County executive Matt Meyer visited St. Peter’s on April 21 to present the school with a check for $1,500 for winning the contest for the small school category. St. Peter’s collected 315 pledges from students and family members to help keep the county’s waterways clean and safe.

“Your small school is mighty unique, the most mighty small school in New Castle County,” Meyer told the cheering students.

The campaign centers around five principles. They are garden for water and life; reduce household chemicals; only rain down the drain; cease the grease; and scoop the poop. By following these five steps, residents can keep pollutants from reaching county waterways in the first place and improve access to safe water for everyone, Meyer said.

County executive Matt Meyer signs a check for $1,500 for St. Peter the Apostle School. Holding the check are, from left, Gabriel Antonio, Tariq William and Brielle Scarberry.

St. Peter principal Carlo Testa said the Clean Streams challenge is aligned with the teachings of Pope Francis, who addressed the environment in his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’,” which discussed the dangers of climate change and other environmental hazards. Testa said that according to the pope, nature is not something that can be “separate from ourselves.”

“St. Peter’s students and families came through in a big way and showed that we live this principle in a big way all the time, not just when there’s a contest to be won,” he said.

During his remarks, Meyer singled out Michelle Bellon, the office manager at St. Peter the Apostle School who spearheaded the Clean Streams challenge. Bellon, a graduate of St. Peter’s, is new to the staff but not Clean Streams. She is the mother of three graduates who also participated in this event. She told Testa about St. Peter’s participation when he arrived as principal last summer.

Michell Bellon was instrumental in the school’s participation in the challenge.

“I just knew that this was something that the school was always active in, and I wanted to make sure that he knew also that this was something that St. Peter’s always participated in,” she said.

The students solicited pledges online, and they earned extra points by participating in a few other activities. One was a dress-down day when everyone wore green; that happened to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day. The other was by taking part in a poster contest.

“I just wanted to make sure that we nailed it,” Bellon said.

The $1,500 prize, which will go to the school’s general fund, came in the form of an oversized check held up by three St. Peter’s students as Meyer got down on the floor of the gymnasium to sign it. He said the school would serve as an example for others in northern Delaware.

“When people read about this in The Dialog, they’re going to say, ‘I want to be like St. Peter’s,’” he said. “Their work sends a message to kids in the entire Philadelphia area that “I want to make our streams clean, and how do we do something about it?”