Student art brings awareness to lead contamination

This armored truck collects the Fundred dollars from across the nation.

Thomas Jefferson Middle School is a collection site for "fundred dollars."

They are mock $100 bills drawn by students at TJMS and across mid-Missouri.

Students at TJMS gave Fundred officials Thursday nearly 4,400 Fundred dollars and loaded them into the Fundred Project's armored truck.

The truck will travel nearly 20,000 miles this spring, to over 100 other schools, to pick up more Fundred dollars.

The project's goal is to collect 3 million Fundreds.

Project organizers will call on the federal government this summer to match that amount in real money, $3 million, to fund their mission to treat lead polluted soil in New Orleans, the city with the second highest lead content in the U.S.

"A lot of people think that the storm is responsible for washing the lead into the soil," Fundred Project Officer Tory Tepp said. "And we're trying to make it clear that this was an issue well before Katrina, and its an issue that is shared by many cities across the country."

So how did the lead contamination in New Orleans happen?

"The overuse of lead paint and there's many refineries in New Orleans and these all just gradually over decades seeped into the ground," says Tepp.

Experts say lead poisoning is most hazardous to children.

It can lead to lead poisoning in the blood, learning disabilities, as well as behavioral and attention problems in kids. TJMS art teacher Holley Smothers organized the school's Fundred participation.

"They are the ones most affected by the lead and they don't have a voice," Smothers said. "So this was a way that one child, one artwork could make a difference."

Smothers started the project at TJMS in support of her students who relocated to Jefferson City from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Here's a list of schools that joined Smothers and TJMS in their effort to collect fundreds:

  • South Elementary, Jefferson City, MO
  • West Elementary, Jefferson City, MO
  • Cedar Hill Elementary, Jefferson City, MO
  • Chillicothe Middle School, Chillicothe, MO
  • Trojan Intermediate, Potosi, MO
  • Smithton Middle School, Columbia, MO
  • Springfield Elementary, Springfield, MO
  • Willard South Elementary, Springfield, MO
  • Nixa Elementary, Nixa, MO
  • Southern Boone County R-1, Ashland, MO
  • California R-1 Elementary, California, MO
  • Horace Mann Lab School, Maryville, MO
  • Shelbina, Shelbina, MO
  • Scruggs Elementary, St. Louis, MO
  • Clarence Elementary, Clarence, MO