CHICAGO (WBBM) — A small Catholic school on the city’s Northwest Side is besting nearly 150 other schools nationwide in a contest for $100,000 in “green” improvements for their school.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports, it’s called the Dream Machine Recycle Rally. Schools involved collect as many aluminum cans and plastic bottles as they can and the school with the highest per student number of items collected, wins. There are 7 1/2 weeks left in the contest.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports

As of today, the 157 students at St. Pascal’s School, 6143 W. Irving Park Rd., have collected an average of 816 aluminum cans and plastic bottles per student– about 100,000 cans and bottles according to school staffer Ginny Quinones.

Principal Denise Landers says the community has rallied to help her small school. She says school parents, parishioners and even other schools have dropped off cans and bottles.

First grader Samantha Hecker, like other students, says she’s getting extra help too. “My grandma gets them (from) all over the block so we have five different bags of bottles at our house”, she says.

The entire Science and Technology room at St. Pascal’s is filled six feet high and more with bags of recyclables. First grade teacher Gayle Kopera says, “They’re bringing in bags literally bigger than themselves. Sometimes it takes three and four kids to actually carry in one bag.”

Seventh grader Lindsay Kobus says everyone from her extended family to people who work with her father have been collecting plastic bottles and aluminum cans for her. She says they’ve been helping because “they know how much it’s worth to us and just to help the environment”.

Third grader Emma Jacobs says “it’s pretty amazing” that St. Pascal’s is in first place in the country because, “if we win that money we could get stuff that’s better for our environment”.

Principal Landers says she’s done a little thinking about how she might be able to spend the 100-thousand dollar prize should St. Pascal’s win. Among the options so far are to build a “green” computer lab or to put in solar panels on the school or to buy energy efficient doors.

The contest ends April 30. Right now, St. Pascal School is an average of 200 items per student ahead of the next school in Florida.

The Dream Machine Recycle Rally is sponsored by Pepsico, Waste Management and Keep America Beautiful.

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