South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Lindbergh High School senior named top six YMCA ‘Changemaker’

LHS senior’s submission looked at radioactive waste
Caroline Pingel and Elise Norman in Washington D.C. Photo provided by Elise Norman.

Lindbergh High School Senior Elise Norman is a very busy 17 year old.

As a member of ten extracurriculars and clubs – and serving as an officer in two of the groups – it is safe to say that Norman has her hands full. This, however, did not stop her from entering the YMCA Changemakers competition where she placed top six in the nation.

Changemakers, according to the YMCA website, gives high school students from around the country an opportunity to propose a project that addresses a critical issue or need in their community. The issue selected can be anything, but it must have specific local context to the applicant’s community.

After doing a documentary project in her English class last school year on the issue of radioactive waste in north St. Louis, Norman decided to focus her Changemakers project on the same topic.

“We did the (documentary) project and I was thinking to myself how many people are actually suffering from this. I wanted to make a change and implement something to help that community,” Norman said.

She shared this idea with her childhood friend and neighbor Caroline Pingel, and the pair began brainstorming what they would do if they won the $5,000 awarded to the top three Changemakers finalists.

“We were like ‘we might as well apply,’” Norman said. “We didn’t even think we were gonna get it.”

The friends did “get it” though, and were named national finalists. With this, they were awarded the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to present their project to representatives and youth governors.

“Caroline and I were both filled with a sense of accomplishment – it was one of the proudest moments of our lives,”  Norman said. “Even though we were both nervous to present in front of the whole conference, we still were incredibly excited to have that opportunity.” 

This was the first year a group from Missouri was named a national finalist. There was also a group from Kansas City who was named a national finalist this year, meaning two of the six groups invited to Washington represented the Show Me State.

Though Norman and Pingel were not awarded the $5,000 prize money, the duo has plans to continue their efforts.

“We are calling ourselves the St. Louis Nuclear Radiation Initiative. We’re working with the YMCA Gateway Region, who we were associated with in D.C., and now Emerson YMCA in north St. Louis to help the community,” Norman said. “Our main goal is to supply medical needs for the families who are really suffering with this. We’re going to do that through hopefully Cardinal Glennon, we’re trying to talk with them.”

Norman shared that she and Pingel are planning a movie night Nov. 17 to spread awareness about the issue, as well as to share the goals of the initiative.