Can Harry Potter Save the Bay?

Part 1

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CBF Community Building Manager Adam Wickline (the man inside the crab suit) greets Harry Potter fans inside Annapolis Mall's Bow Tie Cinemas before the 12:01 a.m. opening of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Adam was encouraging movie-goers to text in their votes for CBF's Pepsi Refresh project.

Yesterday morning, National Public Radio aired a piece about Harry Potter. I'm not talking about the movie review. It was Neda Ulaby's "Harry Potter:  Boy Wizard…and Real World Activist?"

Harry Potter fans across the world--more than 100,000 of them--have mobilized their own real-life version of "Dumbledore's Army." Calling themselves "The Harry Potter Alliance," fans who submerged themselves in the magical world of the uber-popular novels and are now taking on the real-world social ills Harry and his friends stood up against--ethnic cleansing,  worker exploitation, media consolidation, poverty, terrorism--just to name a few.

On its website, the HP Alliance describes its purpose as making "civic engagement exciting by channeling the entertainment-saturated facets of our culture toward mobilization for deep and lasting social change." Just as the movie's protagonists are young magicians committed to fighting evil so, too, are the Alliance's members young activists committed to making their world a better place.

"Making civic engagement exciting." Is that what's necessary to get the attention of our young people? I know from my own experience with two teenagers that in today's world of ever-more-stimulating computer games the answer to that would be a "yes." Keep them off the games and their most common phrase is "I'm bored."

A couple of summers ago we were able to defeat "I'm bored," for a little while anyway. My daughter participated in a CBF summer Student Leadership trip, a one-week expedition in nature along with a dozen or so of her peers and led by CBF educators. Canoeing, hiking, exploring, and yes, even learning. And she was excited! We could tell by the enthusiasm in her voice and in her eyes as she told us story after story of her experience.

I see that same enthusiasm in the eyes and postures of students who come to the Merrill Center on a field experience with their classmates. And I read more about it later in the newspaper articles about those students who take the next step and get active in Bay restoration and education efforts in their own communities.

Right now, YOU have an opportunity to help us continue sharing these magical experiences with thousands of children.

CBF is competing in the Pepsi Refresh Project for a $250,000 grant to support our outdoor education programs. The only way we can win is if you push us to the top by voting for our idea. We've been steadily moving up in the rankings but there's still a long way to go. The competition runs through November 30, and you can vote once every day.

Vote online at www.refresheverything.com/outdoorclassrooms or text 104040 to Pepsi (73774). Then ask everyone you know to do the same. Help us create some real-life magic for our young people.

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My daughter's Student Leadership class.

Kim Ethridge




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