Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.
On July 19th, three students representing the Green Team of Harry Hurst Middle School, along with myself, were honored with the Champions for Change Award for our endeavors of starting a recycling program on our school campus. As a teacher, I was so humbled by the aspect of our students presenting our program to governmental and national business leaders. More importantly, they were able to interact and hear about initiatives that are being put in place around the Gulf Coast Region that will inevitably be a part of the fabric of our region. These conversations are rare in that they could influence their future decisions regarding both career and citizenship participation.
Students at Harry Hurst Middle School began to see a need for recycling because community recycling had been scaled back since Hurricane Katrina and proposed starting a program on campus. They convinced a local recycling business owner, Phoenix Recycling to help with getting the program started by providing free pick up for the first half of the school year. Students organized a “curbside collection” program in which teachers placed their materials outside of their classroom doors and students picked up the materials and placed them in the proper receptacles for pickup. In addition, members of the Green Team educated the student population along with the faculty and staff as to what materials could and could not be recycled. These efforts further lead to community awareness through participation in various local events. The team collected 16,000 gallons of recyclable material on campus which included paper, plastic, aluminum and cardboard.
With the help of Abundant Power and the U.S. Department of Energy, we are excited about continuing the program this school year, not only on our campus but as our members leave for high school, they will be able to continue the work that they started this past school year. As a teacher, I am amazed regularly by the willingness and creativity of our students to recognize a need and then propose a solution that works in such a positive manner.
Julie Rexford is a 7th grade Life Science Teacher at Harry Hurst Middle School.