For junior Kevin Kassel, winning the Schwarzenegger Institute’s Spotlight Award was cause for much excitement, but in the words of his friend and former roommate, junior business administration major Andrew Lux, “[Kassel] didn’t need the award to validate what he has done.” Kassel is the founder of Club H2O, an organization that provides water filters to developing nations.
Kassel, a business administration and environmental studies double major, was first introduced to the global water crisis in high school when he toured apparel company Hurley’s headquarters and learned about their efforts to provide developing nations with filters. Inspired by Hurley’s efforts, Kassel started a club at his high school dedicated to sending filters to countries such as India, Pakistan and Nepal.
“My surf team in high school was sponsored by the surf company Hurley, and Hurley would send their pro surfers all over the world to exotic surf bases, sometimes with water filters to donate. I was going on a trip one summer to the Galapagos and [Hurley] asked if I would bring one of their filters with me,” Kassel said. “It was a pretty unbelievable experience because I really didn’t understand just how much of a difference one water filter could make, but after giving one to a school I was working at in the Galapagos, I started sending them out with friends and family members and eventually started a club at my high school dedicated to that.”
Passionate about this cause, Kassel founded Club H2O when he arrived at USC. Now, his club raises funds to purchase filters which they give to people traveling to developing nations. This method of sending filters with travelers reduced Club H2O’s shipping costs and ensured that the filters would reach their target destinations without possible government interference.
Lux notes how central Kassel’s work with Club H20 has been to his life and college career.
“[Kassel] constantly tried to find ways to raise money for his club, whether it was throwing a fundraising party or reaching out to family, friends and students asking for any donations,” Lux said. “When the earthquake hit Nepal last spring, Kevin worked endlessly to send them as many water filters as he could buy with his club. He ended up with almost $5,000 of fundraising in order to support the people of Nepal.”
Bonnie Reiss, the global director of the Schwarzenegger Institute, explains that when picking a winner for the Spotlight award, she and her team were looking for a student whose project had great depth and scope of impact.
“[Kassel] was looking at access to safe drinking water and the truth is that over one billion people in the developing world do not have access to safe drinking water. For a USC student to care about this life-or-death issue, was very inspirational,” Reiss said. “[Kassel] understood that one water filter could provide safe drinking water for up to 100 people and he was very clever about delivering the filters with people already traveling to developing countries.”
Reiss also notes the importance of student involvement, encouraging students to take inspiration from Kassel and “be the change.”
“Arnold [Schwarzenegger] always said that as important as our political leaders are in passing laws, some of the greatest things don’t happen in government, they happen with individual people and what they are able to do to make a difference,” Reiss said.
With the $1,000 prize Kassel received from the Schwarzenegger Institute, he plans to purchase more water filters to be sent to developing countries.