CARLISLE - Royce Black, a sixth-grade student at Commonwealth Connections Academy, is hoping to make his mark on state history through something he is passionate about - rocks.
Royce's goal is to make celestine the recognized state mineral for Pennsylvania.
"A lot of people don't understand how important minerals are," Black said. "This is part of our earth."
Royce, who lives in Carlisle, always has had a love for rocks. He has collected rocks ever since he could walk.
"Purses, pockets, any time I would go to wash clothes, I would find rocks," said Deb Black, Royce's mother.
The idea to introduce celestine as the state mineral got its spark from a paper Royce wrote for his science class. He attends a free, public cyber school that serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Commonwealth Connections Academy has teaching centers in Williamsport, Philadelphia, Lehighton and the Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton areas.
"We did a paper on which mineral we thought would make the best state mineral," Royce said.
After selecting celestine to be the topic of his science paper, he found through his research on the mineral that someone previously attempted to make it the state mineral, an attempt that was unsuccessful.
"I chose celestine for a state mineral of Pennsylvania because it is beautiful, rare, unique and it was first found in Pennsylvania in 1791," Royce said.
Celestine is a strontium sulfate that only is found in a few places in the world. According to John H. Barnes' 2004 publication on "Rocks and Minerals of Pennsylvania," celestine was found by a German man named Schutz in 1791 in Blair County. Schutz then took his sample of celestine back to Germany where, after it was studied by Martin Heinrich Klaproth, a mineralogist, results were published in 1797.
Celestine comes in two forms - fibrous and crystal. The first sample discovered in Pennsylvania was a fibrous form, but most celestine is found in the crystal form. The mineral is pale blue in color.
"The name celestine comes from the Latin word 'sky' because of its color," Royce explained.
"Celestine is a beautiful stone that can be polished into gems, but it is extremely beautiful in its natural form. Minerals do not have to be abundant to be considered a state mineral. I think they should show something special about the state, and what celestine shows that is special about the state of Pennsylvania is that we went from being a beachfront and undersea area to beautiful mountains and healthy, lush valleys. I think that we should name a mineral that represents this beautiful action and land," Royce wrote.
With his paper complete, Royce only had one more question to answer. "When I was done, I asked my teacher, Mrs. Troxell, if I could make it the state mineral by talking to Rep. Bloom. She told me to go for it."
Royce then met with Stephen Bloom, state representative for the 199th District. He discussed the process as well as the importance of only endorsing something he thought could make a difference.
With the support of his family, Mrs. Troxell, Bloom and many others, Royce started to take action.
"I am currently in the lobbying position. I am trying to make people aware," Royce said.
He has tried to spread the word in nearly every venue possible, including emailing geological societies and clubs and creating a Facebook page.
"The hardest part has been getting votes," Royce said.
His votes on Facebook are counted by how many "likes" the page accumulates. The Facebook page has allowed Royce to communicate his past and current efforts to get celestine introduced as the state mineral.
In order to gain support, Royce also drafted a letter that he personally attempted to deliver to all 203 state representatives at the state Capitol. "It was a lot of walking but meeting the representatives has been my favorite part so far," Royce said.
With the help of his mother, Royce got letters to nearly all of the representatives, a task that took the better part of three hours. "We even left extra copies with Mr. Bloom's secretary in case we missed anyone," Deb Black said.
However, Royce has known from the beginning that he would be fighting an uphill battle to accomplish his goal. With less than a year left to implement his plan, many things still need to be done.
"Mr. Bloom will introduce a co-sponsor paper to get other representatives to co-sponsor the vote, and that is why Royce went to the Capitol to hand out the letters," Deb said.
After Bloom introduces the House resolution and it is set up for a vote, it will go to a committee if it has enough support. In the committee, it is voted on again and, if passed, it goes to the Senate, which also must vote on it. If there are enough votes from the Senate, it goes to a Senate committee before making its final voyage to Gov. Tom Corbett.
As part of his efforts to gain interest in the cause, Royce attended the Paxtonia Science Night on Feb. 10 in the Upper Dauphin County School District, where he displayed an exhibit on celestine and geology in company with his science teacher.
In addition to his efforts to make celestine recognized as the state mineral, Royce also is a member of the Boiling Springs swim team and a fencer in the Carlisle Fencing Club.
Royce, who describes himself as a "rockhound," with more rocks in his collection than he can count, only has one piece of celestine. The fibrous sample of the mineral was given to Royce, by Benjamin R. Edwards, chairman of the earth science department at Dickinson College.
"It's nice to see Royce have a long-term goal at his age," Deb said. "He typically has short goals, but this goal is something long term."
Royce, who is 12, has a strong desire to see this through.
"I think it's important for kids in the future to know that it is exciting and great to want something, and to do something about it! I am a rockhound, and I am proud of that," Royce said.