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PONTIAC — Displayed proudly throughout Pontiac Township High School is the school’s motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve.”

Principal Jon Kilgore believes Friday’s community service project to fight against water pollution is a perfect compliment to that message.

About 200 students, along with 30 teachers and adult chaperones, will paint storm sewer drains, manhole covers and grates, warning residents not to dump waste or chemicals. Some of the students include eighth-graders who will enter the high school next year.

“It sets a tone for those coming into the school and for those leaving that community service is important to our district,” said Kilgore.

This is the 10th year for the project, organized by science teacher Paul Ritter. It starts at 8 a.m. at PTHS football stadium and should end around 2 p.m. Students will form teams, each charged with canvassing a specified area, and stencil the warning on possible entry points into the drainage system.

The system leads to the Vermillion River, the major water source for Pontiac and some surrounding communities. Substances such as motor oil, anti-freeze, grass clippings and household waste can damage the city’s drain system and water quality.

“It’s a great feeling to mark the 10th anniversary of the event, because it shows we continue to be active in the community with businesses and residents,” Ritter said.

Nationally recognized project

The project has received recognition nationwide, including twice winning the Illinois Governor’s Hometown Award.

For Ritter, there’s another bonus this year: His daughter, Bailey, will participate as an eighth-grader.

“She’s grown up with this and I’m so proud she is able to participate as a student for the first time,” he said.

About 3,600 sites are expected to be painted. Kilgore likes the message the work sends to students about community service and to the incoming freshman class.

“It benefits our students because they are doing something positive and giving back to the community,” said junior high Principal Judy Donze.

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