FORT MILL -- Rivalries in every sport have sprouted up between Nation Ford and Fort Mill high schools, but some students at the new school are vying for bragging rights of another sort.
The newly formed environmental club at Nation Ford is angling to save more acres of rain forest this year than Fort Mill High students saved last year. Fort Mill students sold enough Earth Foundation T-shirts to buy and preserve 50 acres of African rain forest under the guidance of Spanish teacher Deborah Bustamante.
This year, Bustamante is teaching at Nation Ford and is the faculty adviser for the Environmental Club. The club began selling T-shirts when school opened and was one of only four groups nationwide to hit the 20-acre mark within the first three weeks of the program. This year, the program is preserving rain forest in Costa Rica.
"It's amazing what a lot of kids can do, we have a lot of ideas and can get a lot of other kids involved," club President Julianne Cardenas said. "We're not just a bunch of tree-huggers or trying to pad our resumes."
The club's members have gone to classrooms throughout the school selling the shirts. They sell them at lunch and in the community. The shirts sell for $14, and every 10 sold saves an acre. Heading into the Christmas break, the club had saved 30 acres. It can continue to sell the shirts until May.
The club also is selling candy, and Bustamante has written a successful grant application that netted the club $800 from the Fort Mill Rotary Club. The goal is to raise enough money to send one or more students on a 10-day trip to the Costa Rican rain forest in June. If the school saves 100 acres or more, it will be entered into a drawing for the trip.
"We can't just rely on ourselves, we have to get others involved," Co-Vice President Sarah Metallo said. "Someone can buy a candy bar, and then we can say, 'Oh by the way, you're helping to send a person to Costa Rica to see this beautiful rain forest.'"
The club also has been instrumental in setting up the school's recycling program. Bustamante was able to get 11 recycling bins, and the club members regularly collect recyclable material. The program has been successful, they say.
"All the recycling bins are always overflowing," Treasurer Christie Zeitler said. "If you go to throw something away and there is a recycling bin there, too, it's easy."
Next semester, the club's major project will be coordinating with the Earth Day celebration at the Anne Springs Close Greenway. The club also will work with Crescent Communities to plant more trees and other landscape elements around the Nation Ford campus.
"If you compare Nation Ford with Fort Mill, they have a courtyard full of mature trees," Bustamante said. "We're a brand new school -- we have to start somewhere."
While the recycling program has been a success, Co-Vice President Spencer Pope said he sees a "dearth of enthusiasm," among many of his fellow students about getting involved with environmental conservation.
"But in reality, getting involved is not that strenuous," he said.
Club Secretary Lindsay River said she knows many students who are aware of issues such as global warming, but most of them don't seem to want to do anything about it.
"They just want to ignore it, turn the other cheek and wait for other people to do something," River said.
But one of the major goals for club members is to improve the environment immediately surrounding the high school, and the Fort Mill area as a whole.
"On Dobys Bridge Road, where I live, they are chopping down a vast forest, chopping it all down acre by acre by acre for more housing," Cardenas said. "It's a ripple, it's cause and effect."