Published: January 11, 2017

    Pelican Water Scholarship 2nd Place Winner: Zainab Agboola

    Many students around the country submitted urgent and thought-provoking submissions to our College Scholarship Contest, but few entries hammered home the severity of the issue more ardently than Zainab Agboola’s timely essay. Her appeal to utilize multiple platforms of advertisement and communication to convey the gravity of our national lead problem earned Zainab 2nd place in our bi-annual contest. Her dynamic call to action reflects the values and beliefs of Pelican Water.

    Zainab Agboola attended Union High School in Union, New Jersey, where she maintained an exemplary 3.8 GPA while enrolled in the most challenging Advanced Placement and Honors courses available to her. Zainab took on a leadership role in her school’s Disabilities Awareness Club, in which she helped award and recognize students with disabilities who greatly enrich their community. Zainab’s $1,000 prize from Pelican Water will assist her as she pursues her passions and goals during her undergraduate education.

    The water crisis in Flint, Michigan recently put a spotlight on our national lead problem. What are some ways to help spread the word about the dangers of lead in America’s water supply and how this water crisis is not just limited to Flint?

    The crisis in Flint, Michigan is worse than it, at first, seems. Among the many other crises occurring in the country, it strikes you as one of the less appalling ones. But, unlike the other crises befalling the country, our water crisis is one that direly requires a closer examination to be seen for what it truly is. Lethal. That is where the true danger lies. We underestimate what it means to not be able to trust our own water supply. It effectively becomes a forgone toxin.

    The worst part is that it can happen to any of us. It’s not just Flint. All of our water systems are at jeopardy and very few actually realize it. The only way to combat the problem is to awaken the world to the dangers of this toxin. And today, in our modern, digital society, the best way for us to reach the far corners of the country with this issue is through social media. We’ve all heard of those videos that have gone viral over social media. They went viral because people wanted to see them and they were provided easy access to them. For a video to go viral, it needs to be poignant, address a real societal issue, and it might need to be sad, but it will be real and people do want to know. They just don’t know they need to.

    Another way to get to the people who don’t truly realize the danger of our tainted waters is through advertisements on television. We’ve seen the advertisements against smoking that depict people who’ve smoked holes into their own throats and wish they’d never even discovered cigarettes. We’ve also seen the advertisements that expose us to the dangers of texting and driving: having to live with the consequences, having blood on our hands; the blood of children, and the blood of lives yet unlived.

    So why not the dangers of leadened water? Why not an exposé on what that liquid can and will do to us if we drink it? Those advertisements can be harsh, they can be painful to watch, but they drive straight to the heart of the matter and the hearts of the people who watch them. They get to people. And most importantly, they are real. They show us that although television is an escape from the world outside our living rooms, some things shouldn’t be escaped from. They need to know. And we should find ways to tell them.

    There are more ways to tell them. Water bottles. This particular option would involve partnering with a company that sells water bottles. But, we all buy them from time to time. And they all come with a label that tells us who is selling us that water. But a name doesn’t take up the entire label. There’s space for more. Why not tell them there? What the dangers of lead water are and what your company is doing to keep that lead out of the water they are drinking. Why not talk to the customers? Why not talk to the people who get to drink clean water without worrying what’s in their bottles? Why not tell them that they might have something to worry about when they drink from their taps at home? Why not tell them what they can do to stay safe? Why not tell them what they can do to help?

    It’s not that they don’t want to know. It’s that they don’t think they need to know. And they do. They really do because this, this affects all of us. It’s our water. And it’s the water we want to feel safe drinking. It’s the water we’ll want our children to feel safe drinking.