East Harlem students prepare to meet Pope Francis

Marcus Solis Image
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Children in Harlem prepare for St. Francis' visit to New York City
Marcus Solis has the details

EAST HARLEM (WABC) -- Caring for the environment and worries about climate change are the big issues the pope talks about. In East Harlem, some children who will get to meet the pope are taking on those issues.

The young students are doing some planting and preparing some environmentally oriented projects to show Pope Francis later this month.

They planted mums but this was less about developing a green thumb and more about having a big heart.

Students from Saint Ann's School were hard at work sprucing up a section of East 110th Street.

The idea to beautify otherwise empty flower beds was Noah Rodriguez's who was one of six Saint Ann students who will visit the pontiff when he visits in Harlem.

"My first reaction was like, yes," Noah said.

"For them to be so excited to meet him, I hope it translates to him, how strong his message and his leadership is," said Hope Mueller, the principal.

In all, 24 third and fourt graders from four school will show off special projects they have worked on, reflecting issues of importance to Pope Francis.

One of the projects features community service and care for the environment.

"We are taking care of our community and we are trying to help out," Noah said.

"As a father, who wouldn't be excited, you know, this is my son at 8 years old, he's going to meet the pope and most adults in their lifetime will never meet the pope," said Steven Rodriguez, a parent.

The mums may be the first immediately visible project, but it goes far beyond flowers.

Students have events planned throughout the entire year.

"We have a pajama drive planned, a food drive planned, we have ringing bells at Christmastime for the Salvation Army planned. We have a senior center nearby that we will be serving their Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to," Mueller said.

Tuesday's project coincided with a mass celebrated in Rome, stressing care for the environment.

So what do the kids think, the Holy Father will think of their efforts?

"I think he's going to say, wow, how beautiful the flowers are," said Belinda Baez, a 4th grader.

"It looks beautiful and I hope he likes it," said Jaylin Gracereaux, a 4th grader.