Cushing Third Grader Starts a Styrofoam Shut-Down

Gates Esch is an elementary school activist


Emily Mathews

Cushing School discontinued using Styrofoam thanks to a 3rd grade student

Valentine McNeilly, Staff Writer

An activist is a person who campaigns to bring about political or social change. We see people of all ages becoming engaged in petitions, letter-writing, boycotts, campaigns, and much more to take part in a movement they believe in.

At just nine years old, Cushing Elementary School’s Gates Esch is an activist.

Esch first noticed the abundance of styrofoam used in his school’s lunchroom–specifically the trays that had previously been reusable plastic. Due to the pandemic, lunch trays were switched to styrofoam to avoid sharing and reusing, which resulted in an increase in waste. With the help of his mom, Esch was able to contact SPS Superintendent William Burkhead regarding this issue. Together, they figured out how to switch the trays at school from styrofoam to paper. Esch wanted to pursue this project because he knew “it was the right thing to do for our environment and for our health.” He is proud to be part of a school that will support and carry out his ideas. 

Cushing Elementary School Principal Donna Moffat is impressed by the perseverance shown by Esch: “He is a wonderful student and kid,” she said. According to Moffat, Esch is very engaged in class discussions and always helps his classmates out when they need a hand. She commented that everyone who knows Esch is inspired by his dedication.

This determined 3rd grader is not only an advocate for the environment–he is also an advocate for equality. After much talk about school lunch trays, Esch wanted to remind everyone that he is involved in much more. Right now, Esch is supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and wants to join the fight for equality. In fact, Gates Esch wants to be the president of the United States of America someday, so keep your eye out for him!