Back to school blues

Beyond the Curb


Back to school brings about mixed feelings to me. It is a sign that summer is really over, that we need to turn alarms and reminders back on, and the confirmation that my daughter is not as little as she was the year before — gosh, they do grow up fast. As any parent, I wish all the best for her and I want to squeeze all teachable moments that I can to help her get prepared to be a successful citizen of
the world.

Being a citizen of the world, or cosmopolitan, means accepting that “we’re all responsible for the human community” despite boundaries and differences in culture. The concerns go beyond oneself and solutions take into account their impact on humanity as a whole, not only one person. Many concerns are common to the world and we should learn from each other.

That kind of attitude needs practice and practice needs to be started young. It is encouraging to see that it is happening and kids are taking stands on issues that affect not only themselves, but others and also the environment. 

An example of that is Mikaela Gillooley, a seventh grader from Schalmont Middle in New York, who won first place in The Daily Gazette’s competition called The Student Gazette. She wrote an essay questioning the use of polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam) trays in schools. After presenting her arguments to support that “Styrofoam is bad for the environment and bad for you to eat your food off,” she ends with a plea: “Styrofoam lunch trays need to stop being used in all schools immediately.” 

To read her essay, go to

That issue in particular is of interest to many people, including me, for the same exact arguments Mikaela presented in her essay: polystyrene is bad for the environment, bad for the animals and bad for us. 

According to a 2011 report on ABC news, “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added eight more substances to its ‘known human carcinogen’ or ‘reasonably anticipated to be carcinogen’ lists. … Among the substances is styrene, a synthetic chemical found in Styrofoam.” 

The Office of Sustainability at Washington University in St. Louis ( posted a report that states, “The production, use, and disposal of Polystyrene (a substance more commonly known as Styrofoam) causes adverse environmental and health effects.” 

Then, according to an article in Scientific American, “New York joins a number of West Coast cities, including Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco, as well as Washington, D.C., in banning polystyrene food containers.”

As a concerned parent, I sent the above information to Brevard Public Schools (BPS) along with a question: Would the superintendent support eliminating Styrofoam from Brevard schools, especially from our cafeterias? Unfortunately, I didn’t get an answer.

When BPS was looking to hire a new superintendent, I sent a request to the board to consider a superintendent willing to make changes that would benefit the environment as well as the health and well-being of our kids and families. Dr. Desmond Blackburn got the job and I can only hope he is up to leading positive changes of that nature.

Every year, like many other parents, I have the back-to-school blues: “Where has time gone? She grew up so much.” Yes, all of a sudden they blossom into young citizens and – if we give them the right tools – into responsible, caring citizens of the world. Learning about children like Mikaela warms my heart. We see what is possible. We just need to make sure our children get the best we can give, learn the best we can teach. We are trying hard to do our share. Let’s make sure others do theirs, too. 

Email Marcia Booth at