Pontiac High School is receiving global attention for its efforts to save endangered species

Local News

PONTIAC, Ill. — A Central Illinois school is getting global attention after years of working to save animals.

For the past 6 years students in Paul Ritter’s Pontiac Township High School class have been treating animals by saving them from going extinct. 

Recently they turned their attention to alligator snapping turtles, and because of those efforts they have been nominated for the Indianapolis prize.

“They (alligator snapping turtles) were endangered, there were no more left in Illinois,” said Senior, Lauren Durham. “We got them when they were babies, and we have been raising them until they are old and big enough to be released into the wild.”

The Indianapolis Prize is a biennial award that shines a spotlight on anyone in the world doing what they can to protect endangered species.

“To know that your kids are global game changers,” said Ritter. “That is the greatest feeling in the world.”

The students are being nominated for their work to reintroduce the snapping turtles to their natural habitat. If Ritter’s class wins it gets a $250,000 prize, but he says, just being recognized is reward enough. 

“Kids want to be heard,” said Ritter. “They want to know that what they are doing means something and is making a difference, and being recognized for the indy prize just gives them the feed back that “hey, keep rocking and rolling because this is going to be good.”

Although this is Lauren Durham’s last year, she says she plans to take what she’s learned to the next level.

“I want to go into something science related, like what mr. Ritter does,” said Durham. “I think it’s just preparing me even more for what’s ahead and i am very excited.”

Ritter and his class are one of 31 nominees worldwide in line for this award. They will know if they win it in September of 2020.

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