Gifted students from West Chicago won first in the state for their project to get a fence built around railroad tracks near their elementary school.
Pioneer Elementary School fifth and sixth graders are set to compete in June with students from around the world - but their cash-strapped school district can't afford to send them.
"We're very determined that we're going to go," said teacher Kathy Grogan.
The eight students in the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) class need to raise approximately $7,000 to attend the International Future Problem Solving Competition, June 9-14 in Wisconsin. The students won top honors in their division in the community problem-solving category for Illinois.
The class project was to get fencing or warning signs in English and Spanish put up around the tracks, which run through a field where children often play. A 3-year-old girl was struck and killed there two years ago.
The students researched pedestrian-train accidents in Illinois, collected signatures and put together a detailed proposal for the fence. As it turned out, plans for a 5-foot-high cyclone fence were already underway, part of the city's settlement after the Canadian National Railroad's merger with the EJ&E. But the youngsters' efforts were recognized with a $500 Do Something grant and a $200 donation from ABC 7, which will be used to buy the warning signs.
Students from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Great Britain and Canada as well as 32 states will compete at the five-day event on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.
This is the third year Grogan's students have qualified for internationals. Last year, her students took first in the state for their Hug in a Bag project to help the homeless. The previous year, Grogan's class took first in the state and third internationally for a playground-improvement project at Pioneer.
This year, though, the state's financial crisis has left West Chicago Elementary District 33 forced to make budget cuts. And next year, District 33 is focusing on math in its gifted program, so the class will no longer be able to do the community-solving project, which was part of the gifted reading curriculum.
"This will be the last time we're going to be able to do this," Grogan said.
Her students are working to raise money through bake sales and other efforts, and are also looking for sponsors. The class is also working on the DVD, display and scrapbook required for the international competition.
The eight students are sixth-graders Gabby Gallegos, Lourdes Rosales and Nayeli Lara and fifth-graders Theresa Carriveau, Taylor Dehaeseleer, D'riah McCarroll, Guillermo Orizaba and Christopher Reyes.