Courtesy Loui Brezzell


I’m Working to Save My City

Mari Copeny, 12, is raising money—and using her voice—to help the people in her hometown. Here’s her story, in her own words.

As You Read, Think About: How is Mari trying to help people affected by the Flint water crisis?

I live in Flint, Michigan. About five years ago, our water began to smell funny. My family started getting really bad rashes. My little sister needed special medicine. At night, she had to be wrapped in plastic under her pajamas to heal her skin. She wasn’t the only kid in Flint who got so sick. Some people suffered from bad headaches. Others had severe stomach cramps.

Across the city, people complained that something was seriously wrong with their tap water. But local officials insisted it was clean. It turns out they were wrong: Our water was toxic. It was contaminated with lead, a poisonous metal.

We couldn’t drink or cook with the water from our tap. We had to use bottled water for drinking, cooking, and brushing our teeth. The only safe way to take baths was to heat up water from bottles.

In 2015, when I was 8 years old, I decided I needed to speak up for the people of Flint. I wrote a letter to then-president Barack Obama to ask him for help. In response, he came to speak with our community. I got to meet him, and he lifted me up onstage. But I wanted to do more.

I live in Flint, Michigan. About five years ago, our water began to smell funny. My family started getting really bad rashes. My little sister needed special medicine. She had to be wrapped in plastic under her pajamas at night to heal her skin. She wasn’t the only kid in Flint who got so sick. Some people suffered from bad headaches. Others had severe stomach cramps.

People across the city complained that something was seriously wrong with their tap water. But local officials insisted it was clean. It turns out they were wrong. Our water was toxic. It was contaminated with lead. Lead is a poisonous metal.

We couldn’t drink or cook with the water from our tap. We had to use bottled water for drinking, cooking, and brushing our teeth. The only safe way to take baths was to heat up water from bottles.

In 2015, I was 8 years old. I decided I needed to speak up for the people of Flint. I wrote a letter to then-president Barack Obama. I asked him for help. In response, he came to speak with our community. I got to meet him. He lifted me up onstage. But I wanted to do more.

Taking Action

My friends and family helped me start a campaign to buy bottled water for Flint. Our goal was to raise $15,000. So far, we’ve collected $280,000!

For the past few years, I’ve been giving out bottles of water and new water filters to people in my city. At every event, we see hundreds of people lined up. Many people in Flint still can’t use their tap water. They have to use bottled water every time they want to wash their hands or make a cup of tea.

I’ve also used social media to ask people around the world for help. I have more than 100,000 followers on Twitter, including celebrities, politicians, and regular people from different countries. With their support, I’ve been able to raise more than half a million dollars for Flint.

My friends and family helped me start a campaign to buy bottled water for Flint. Our goal was to raise $15,000. So far, we’ve collected $280,000!

For the past few years, I’ve been giving out bottles of water and new water filters to people in my city. We see hundreds of people lined up at every event. Many people in Flint still can’t use their tap water. They have to use bottled water every time they want to wash their hands or make a cup of tea. 

I’ve also used social media to ask people around the world for help. I have more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. That includes celebrities, politicians, and regular people from different countries. With their support, I’ve been able to raise more than half a million dollars for Flint.

Changing the World

Most people now know me as Little Miss Flint. I’m proud that I am able to help my neighbors have access to clean water. I’ll continue until every single Flint resident feels safe drinking the water from their taps. I also want people to realize that Flint isn’t the only place in America with water issues. It’s important for us all to ask questions about what’s in the water at school and at home.

My goal is to run for U.S. president in 2044—as soon as I’m old enough. But you don’t have to be an adult to change the world. It starts with helping out in your own community. You have a voice and the ability to amplify that voice. Don’t let anyone stop you.

Most people now know me as Little Miss Flint. I’m proud that I am able to help my neighbors have access to clean water. I’ll continue until every single Flint resident feels safe drinking the water from their taps. I also want people to realize that Flint isn’t the only place in America with water issues. It’s important for us all to ask questions about what’s in the water at school and at home.

My goal is to run for U.S. president in 2044. That’s as soon as I’m old enough. But you don’t have to be an adult to change the world. It starts with helping out in your own community. You have a voice. You have the ability to amplify that voice. Don’t let anyone stop you.

1. How did the contaminated water affect people in Flint, Michigan?

2. Summarize how Mari took action in her community.

3. What is the purpose of the sidebar “What You Need to Know About the Flint Water Crisis”?

1. How did the contaminated water affect people in Flint, Michigan?

2. Summarize how Mari took action in her community.

3. What is the purpose of the sidebar “What You Need to Know About the Flint Water Crisis”?

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