Students in Reflo’s environmental internship program came from six different schools and had to work as a team to complete a project. (Photo by PrincessSafiya Byers)

By PrincessSafiya Byers

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories about fifteen neighborhoods in the city of Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.

High school students from across the city have spent the past year learning and carrying out projects on environmental issues through an internship with Reflo Sustainable Water Solutions.

They got together last week at Arts @ Large, 1100 S. 5th St., to share what they learned with friends and family. Reflo is located in the same building.

The students worked about 10 to 15 paid hours per month. Reflo staff guided them through the process.

The Audubon team studied sensory gardens; Golda Meir’s team focused on community cleanups; the team of students from the Milwaukee School of Languages, Rufus King, and North Division looked at awareness of native plants and pollinators; and Bradley Tech students have studied overconsumption in fashion.

Each project produces either literature that students can share with their peers or an event planned by the interns.

Reflo, a non-profit organization, focuses on improving green spaces and sustainable water practices through education, research, and implementation of water projects.

“We want to introduce students to careers they know little or nothing about,” said Wilniesha Smith, intern and outreach coordinator for Reflo. “Green infrastructure is a booming career in the Midwest.”

Rufus King student Lily Wohlt said she sought out the program because she cared about the environment.

“I liked being able to learn about a wide range of things while being able to focus on what was important to our team,” she said. “And getting paid made it even more enjoyable.”

Other students said they got more than expected from the internship.

“I had to learn to be open-minded,” said Golda Meir intern Azaria Kelly. “Even when I thought people would agree with what I thought, they didn’t, and I had to learn to be comfortable with that.”

“I never realized how much work it takes to get us clean water,” added Oliver Rodriguez, an Audubon High School intern. “We learned all about it when they took us to Jones Island, the main wastewater treatment plant for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

Students earned certificates for their work, and many said they planned to continue environmental work after the internship ended.

“I want to be a nurse,” Kelly said. “But it’s become important to me too, so I’m going to figure out how I can do both.”

Smith said the organization is always looking for volunteers and community involvement.

“The best part of this job is the satisfaction of the students once they finally understand what’s going on and how to work on it,” she said.

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