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Fourth-grader earns $10,000 for Fountain Green Elementary through BGE contest

Averi McCotter, a fourth-grader at Fountain Green Elementary School, earned $10,000 for her school as the grand prize winner of BGE's Natural Gas Safety Hero Challenge. She is standing with Captain Mercaptan, BGE's fictional natural gas safety superhero.
Averi McCotter, a fourth-grader at Fountain Green Elementary School, earned $10,000 for her school as the grand prize winner of BGE's Natural Gas Safety Hero Challenge. She is standing with Captain Mercaptan, BGE's fictional natural gas safety superhero. (Erika Butler / Baltimore Sun)

A fourth-grader at Fountain Green Elementary School earned $10,000 for her school with her winning cartoon in BGE’s Natural Gas Safety Hero Challenge.

Averi McCotter and her teacher, Tracy Morehead, were surprised with the announcement at the school Tuesday afternoon, when students had gathered in the gym for an assembly on natural gas safety.

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Five other schools in the Baltimore area earned $5,000 each, including North Bend Elementary in Jarrettsville and St. Stephen School in Kingsville, according to a news release from BGE.

The money will be used to buy new laptops for the school, Principal Alison Donnelly told the students.

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“We are so excited about this award,” Donnelly said. “To be the first Harford County school to earn the top prize in this contest is truly an accomplishment, and I could not be prouder. We always talk about educating the whole child, and this goes to show that the daily lessons in all subject areas, including fine arts, are important and applicable. We are grateful for the monetary award, which will be used to purchase laptops to continue to prepare our students to be digital citizens.”

Averi's McCotter's comic was the grand prize winner of BGE's Natural Gas Safety Hero Challenge, which earned $T10,000 for her school, Fountain Green Elementary.
Averi's McCotter's comic was the grand prize winner of BGE's Natural Gas Safety Hero Challenge, which earned $T10,000 for her school, Fountain Green Elementary. (Courtesy BGE)

BGE’s Natural Gas Safety Hero Challenge challenges elementary school students at schools in BGE’s service area to illustrate gas safety messages featuring Captain Mercaptan, BGE’s fictional natural gas safety superhero, according to a release from the utility company.

Captain Mercaptan appeared to help BGE officials announced the awards.

Averi’s first-place cartoon will be used in BGE’s natural gas safety advertisement in the spring, Christopher Burton, vice president of gas distribution for BGE, told the students and staff at the assembly.

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Averi stood in shock as her cartoon was announced as the fourth-grade winner. She was even more shocked when she learned she was the grand prize winner.

“It’s surprising,” she said after the presentation, which her parents and siblings also attended.

Her teacher, Tracy Morehouse, was equally surprised.

“I had no idea,” Morehouse said. “[Averi] worked really hard on her entry, so I’m excited.”

As for winning $10,000 for her school: “It’s big. It’s very big,” Averi said.

Donnelly thanked Averi for her efforts.

“This is phenomenal. Thank you for putting your talents to good use. We thank you for doing this for our school. You are now a published illustrator and this is amazing,” Donnelly said.

In her cartoon, Averi said she was trying to tell people not to try and find the source of natural gas when they smell it.

Fountain Green Elementary fourth-grader Averi McCotter, the grand prize winner of BGE's Natural Gas Safety Hero Challenge, stands with BGE and school officials.
Fountain Green Elementary fourth-grader Averi McCotter, the grand prize winner of BGE's Natural Gas Safety Hero Challenge, stands with BGE and school officials. (Erika Butler / Baltimore Sun)

“It’s important that they shouldn’t try to find it because it’s dangerous,” she said.

The danger of natural gas is the purpose of Captain Mercaptan. Mercaptan is the name of the odor, which smells like rotten eggs, that’s added to natural gas, which has no smell and can’t be seen, Marc Haines, a safety specialist with BGE, told the students in the assembly before the presentation.

“If it smelled like strawberries, would anybody call 911? No. We make it really bad so people call,” Haines said.

He and his sidekick, Shawn Jackson, told students it’s important to call 911 when they smell natural gas.

“Get out of the house right away. Don’t try to fix it, don’t try to turn off the gas. Call 911 or 410-685-0123,” Haines said.

Students were encouraged to share what they learned at the assembly with their families and friends because the more people share, the safer they will be, Burton said.

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