Ben Stockdale

Columbus, N.C.

When Ben Stockdale, an 18-year-old high school senior from Polk County, N.C., saw the low-flush toilet handles at Appalachian State University, he knew he had an opportunity that he couldn’t waste.

In August 2011, Ben and Polk County High School’s student-led “Green Team” wanted to install the same low-flush toilet handles at their school. To look for funding, they turned to to the Polk County Community Foundation. At first, the foundation was hesitant to give a grant to the high schoolers, but they were soon convinced otherwise by the Green Team’s hard work.

Though the new toilet handles will decrease flushed water usage by 30 percent, Ben said the most important part of this project was how the community came together: Polk County High teachers and the principal advised the Green Team, community members stepped in to assist, and the students rallied around the grant writing process.

The project’s success depended upon everyone, says Ben: “It was Polk County that was trying to move forward.” With the low-flush toilet handle as a precedent for community cooperation, one can only wonder what the future projects Ben and his hometown will embrace. — By Matt Grimley

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