Fifth Grade Class Awarded $500 Disney Friends for Change Grant for Global Youth Service Day

Mount Madonna, CA, April 2015 — The fifth grade class at Mount Madonna School (MMS) was recently awarded a Disney Friends for Change Youth Grant through Youth Service America (YSA). The grant is in conjunction with their in-depth class environmental project, We Ourselves Set This Problem in Motion, So Let’s All Help the Orcas of the Ocean.
MMS is one of 125 recipients nationwide who were awarded YSA grants in 2015 to lead projects with a potential for making a positive, lasting change in the world. 
Eleven-year-old Maddie Erbe coordinated writing and submitting application earlier this year on behalf of her class; the students were recently notified that they’ve been awarded $500 towards their project expenses, including production of an educational film (written, filmed, edited and produced by the students). 
‘Our project is making a difference by showing the public how their everyday choices have a direct effect on the survival of the orcas,’ said Erbe. ‘We know that throwing away plastic is hurtful to the environment and if you reduce the plastic you consume and use less water, this helps orcas too. We are using our booths at public events, our movie, and our own beach cleanups to make change in our community.
‘We have started a petition to ban plastic micro-beads in personal care products because that plastic can harm the orcas. In just a month, the petition has more than 10,000 signatures! We are also working on getting protection laws passed to say that boats need to stay at least 100 yards from orcas and other whales.’
In the addition to their educational and outreach efforts, the students are also engaged in service activities. They are planning and coordinating a clean-up of their school campus in honor of Global Youth Service Day (GYSD). The fifth graders will be assisted by the entire student body, preschool through grade 12, for the campus clean-up. Over the past couple months fifth graders also conducted cleanups at two Santa Cruz County beaches and the mouth of the Pajaro River, where it meets the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. 
‘This is a big deal because our school is at the top of the Pajaro watershed, so we will have cleaned the top of the watershed and the mouth of the watershed where it empties into the ocean and the beach at the river mouth,’ said Erbe.
‘Through our work on this project, my class has changed. We see things differently and we buy things differently. We notice garbage on the ground and pick it up. We choose to say ‘no’ to a straw or ‘no, thank you’ when asked if we want a bag. We think twice before we play with water or before we grab a plastic wrapped item. For instance, one classmate loves Lunchables, but realized how much plastic they have. She asked her parents to buy the food and she makes her own ‘Lunchable,’ really reducing the amount of plastic. Another classmate talked about picking a drink to go in glass instead of plastic. Each and every choice we make different makes a difference.’
Erbe and the MMS fifth grade class join millions of other young people around the world to celebrate GYSD, April 17 to 19, 2015. Now in its 27th year, GYSD provides an opportunity for young people to find their voice, take action, and make a positive impact in their communities. As the largest service event in the world, Global Youth Service Day is celebrated in more than 135 countries and all 50 states.
‘Maddie Erbe is a true Friend for Change,’ said Steven A. Culbertson, president and CEO of YSA. ‘She and her classmates have found their voice, and are taking action to make an impact on the vital community issue of orca conservation. We are so proud of her creativity and leadership.’
Founded in 1986, YSA (Youth Service America) supports a global culture of engaged children and youth committed to a lifetime of meaningful service, learning, and leadership. With half the world’s population under age 25, YSA’s mission is to help young people find their voice, take action, and make an impact on vital community issues. As a campaign of YSA and the largest service event in the world, Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) celebrates and mobilizes the millions of young people who improve their communities through service. GYSD is celebrated each year in more than 135 countries on six continents. For more information, visit and 
Disney Friends for Change is a multi-platform initiative that inspires kids and families to join together and make a positive impact on their world by helping people, communities and the planet. And while these activities may vary, they are united by an overarching emphasis on fostering creativity, conservation and compassion. Through PSAs on-air and online action kits, the program aims to provide useful resources to encourage kids to make small changes that add up to big differences. Friends for Change, along with YSA, provide grants to support youth-service projects in communities around the world. Friends for Change currently has almost five million actions taking place from kids in 33 countries throughout Europe, Latin America, China and the United States.