Community Engagement Starts in the Neighborhood

“Community service is not only thinking about yourself but also how it affects others: it is having a positive impact on others.”—Stella B., age 12

By Norma Richman

Just a stone’s throw from High Point Academy sits the Eaton Canyon Nature Center, a wildlife and plant-life refuge riddled with trails and riverbeds. Sixth graders in Mrs. von der Lancken’s and Mrs. Nguyen’s classes, armed with trash grabbers and work gloves, fanned out across the park and scoured the ground for trash. They found bottles, cans, and lots of paper. Most perplexing to the kids was the number of eating utensils scattered about. After a brief introduction to safety by the park’s maintenance supervisor and practice using the trash grabbers, the crews paired up and took off with parents and teachers in tow. For these environmental volunteers, the fun part was seeing who could find the most litter, but they also clearly understood the importance of their mission.

“Here in California there are lots of parks, beaches, and nature preserves. We should be aware that it takes a long time for trash to decompose. We want to undo negative footprints that others have made. When we were going along, I was trying to look out for trash as well as wildlife,” noted William G., age 12.

Students made sure to avoid bees, ants, and a possible snake sighting—all adding to the excitement of the day. And they were also careful to avoid poison oak. The good news is that no one returned to the Nature Center headquarters with so much as a scratch. The children were rewarded with unique pins and decals, but the best part was a job well done.

James R., age 12, reflected on the day: “I think community service is an experience where you’re undoing wrongs and making them right. I also think that it’s a good learning experience to give information to others. It was a nice walk and we picked up a lot of trash and got to do a steep hike, knowing we are doing something good.”

And Penelope S., 11, chimed in with a similar theme. “So we were doing a community service project today especially in places of dense vegetation. It causes a domino effect. Things can happen for a positive reason. We picked up a lot of trash. So I think the reason why we are doing community service is because we helped both animals and plants,” she said.

Looking to the future of our environment, Stella B. reflected on the importance of their trek through Eaton Canyon: “My group went on another trail, and we found way more trash. As we picked it up, we were thinking about what would happen if everyone left the trash there.”

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