Waites Island gets grant money from kids

A big donation from some local kids will help build a proposed research facility on Waties Island near Little River.

Tuesday, four Horry County Middle School students presented $5,000 check to Coastal Carolina's center for Marine and Wetland Studies.

They money came from a federal research grant the students got from the Christopher Columbus Foundation.

Karen Fuss, an environment educator at Coastal Carolina University was impressed with the students initiative to apply for the grant. "Middle schoolers applying for a grant is a rarity, and the fact that they took it upon themselves to apply for this grant, receive it then choose us, Coastal Carolina, we feel very lucky to have this partnership."

The money will help build a research facility on Waties Island, a barrier island off the coast of Little River. Barley teenagers they've already recognized the need for marine research, through a program at Ripley's Aquarium.

Jesse Perl, one of the students, hopes the money will help raise awareness about areas like Waties Island. "The environment needs to be preserved for our future generations that way they have something to do."

For years Waties Island has served as a classroom to students. CCU faculty members hope the new facility will continue to do just that and more.

Paul Gayes, Professor of Marine and Wetland Studies said, "To have such a resource as a back drop for classes and students, its tough not to be very interested in something here. There's a little bit of everything. There's salt marshes, title creeks and beaches and inlets and forest. There's a whole range of things to be able to observe."

The research facility is still in the design stages. It's not known yet when the university will begin construction.

Coastal Carolina University owns 1,200 acres of Waties Island.