Winning Essay by Joycelynn McCoy, Tulane University

Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny, a thirteen-year-old from Flint, Michigan, has established a name for herself as Little Miss Flint, one of the youngest activists in the nation who is fighting to resolve her community's water crisis. Copeny has worked at a local, state, and even national level to raise awareness of the problems affecting her community. At 8 years old, she and her family had to stop using their tap water after learning that it was contaminated with lead and had been poisoning the residents of Flint since the water source was switched to the Flint River in an attempt to save money. To date, Copeny has raised over $500,000 dollars for her community which has translated to over 1 million bottles of water. She uses her social media platforms as well as Go Fund Me to collect donations and is frequently interviewed by local and national news outlets to spread awareness for the cause for which she is fighting. When it was announced that free bottled water would no longer be provided for residents of Flint, Mari set out to find a more sustainable long-term solution to the city's problem. She began working with a startup called Hydroviv, which creates high capacity lead removal water filters and donates them to communities nationwide facing a water crisis. So far their campaign has raised $163,032 which will translate to over 160 bottles worth of safe drinking water per dollar. One of Little Miss Flint's most viral forms of activism was her letter to President Obama in 2016. On her way to a congressional hearing in DC on Flint's crisis, Copeny wrote a letter to the President, requesting a visit to Flint so he could see first hand the negative effects of the water crisis and boost morale and support. Following the visit, a federal state of emergency was declared in June of 2016 and Obama authorized $100 million to help fix the crisis.

I am inspired by this young activist who started at such a young age and continues to grow her platform to help even more people. It is rare to see a positive portrayal of people of color in the media and I am proud to see the attention Mari Copeny has brought to communities of color and the individuals within them. She was able to have a massive impact by first focusing her work on her community and then expanding her efforts to help others affected. She has inspired me to be more active in my community, and this year I have taken on a leadership role in an after school volunteer club, Roses 4 Austin. Every other Friday we work after school with students from kindergarten through eighth grade to spend time with them completing crafts and other activities. This year I have expanded my contributions by collecting funds and supplies and organizing crafts. I hope that I inspire other young people the way Little Miss Flint, Mari Copeny inspired me.


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