Twelve students and three chaperones from Erechim, a Brazilian municipality with a population of around 100,000, have traveled to this part of the world to experience America and hear some of the thoughts and practices of local students focused on bettering the environment. The group, members of the Tupinambás Senior Scout Troop, will be in town until Saturday.
    The troop started its visit by attending the 25th Clean Water Celebration on April 24, in Peoria. The Clean Water Celebration is an annual event where students and the general public can discover ways to conserve and restore water and natural resources. In the past, high school Earth Science teacher Paul Ritter and his students at Pontiac Township High School have attended and presented the Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal program at the event.
    The Brazilian students are in Illinois thanks to a partnership they have developed over the years with Ritter. The teacher and his students have helped the scouts to develop a successful P2D2 program in Brazil. Ritter met the scouts during the PTHS’ third-prize win at the Volvo Adventure Awards in Gothenburg, Sweden, back in 2012. The troop’s hope for their visit is to gain knowledge and inspiration for various projects that could be used to benefit the environment and natural resources of Brazil.
    “When we were in Peoria at the Clean Water Festival, we saw some brilliant things,” Fernanda Favero, a member of the scout troop said. “There are also some people here that are doing similar things to what we’ve done in Brazil to make the water quality better. It’s really inspiring to know that we’re not the only ones who are passionate about saving the environment.”
    Before arriving in town, Favero assumed that America was a prosperous country with a McDonald’s restaraunt on every corner. After spending a few days in the area however, that opinion has changed.
    “I like that it’s not all big businesses,” Favero said. “I also appreciate the pride Americans have for their country. When we drive around, I see flags and things like that in many homes. In Brazil, it’s just not like that, it’s really different.”
    According to Favero, she and the others are staying in the homes of local students, organized by Ritter. She said it is much better than staying in a hotel and remarked at how big and well-kept local homes seem to be.
    “Homes are so beautiful here,” she said. “It seems like everything works, people follow the rules and respect each other. It’s been really inspiring to see how people can work together.”
    In addition to spending time in Peoria, the scouts have also taken trips to some of the businesses around town. Today, the scouts will head to Chicago to do some shopping and see the city.
    “I’m really looking forward to that, it will be a great experience,” Favero said. “I think it will remind me more of home.”
    In addition to touring the big cities, the troop also spent time working with Ritter’s Earth science students, as well as giving presentations to groups like the Rotary and to students at Pontiac Junior High School. Favero says the experience has been positive.
    “It’s been great working with the students,” she said. “It’s different from what we’re doing in scouts, but they do many projects similar to ours. They worry about the environment as much as we do, I don’t know how to explain it, it’s different but the same.”