Taking Pride in Stride

Kids lead the battle against litter, learning it's easy to make a difference, one bag at a time.

Marching past the other students waiting to begin their day at Highlands Elementary, a brave and mighty group of kids gear up with gloves, masks and plastic shopping bags and head to the courtyard, car ramp and borders of their school’s campus. Their mission? To pick up the sea of discarded masks, half-empty plastic water bottles, coffee cups, straws and any assortment of flotsam littering their school campus in Immokalee.  These students are a part of the student leadership team and thought the litter was getting out of hand, so decided to do something about it. “It’s fun! We get gloves and bags and work with a partner,” says  Betsy Cornejo-Ibarra. Her last partner was Ashley Morales Jimenez. “She makes it fun.”

Johnny Perez-Lopez explains the logistics. “We get to go into the school early, leave our backpacks in Ms. Murphy’s computer lab then head out to get to work.” Antonio Moya-Bedolla says the area that’s the worst is the front of the property, in the bushes. “We fill at least eight bags.” Jazmin Gutierrez is another member of the beautification team who just enjoys being helpful. There’s a lesson we can all learn.

Highlands principal, Margaux Horne applauds the work of these exemplary students and staff liaison, Mary Murphy, an instructional resource teacher. "The kids started this themselves," says Ms. Horne. They will also plant flowers, coordinate a decorative tiling project, and learn how to recycle water on the property.  

"We found the coolest thing," explains Adrian Chavez-Magana whose little brother Dariel gets to join the group too. Along with their partner, Anderson Rojas-Martinez, they unearthed something unusual while working one morning. "It's a kind of gadget, maybe a bike part or part of a machine. We're going to figure it out!"

We have no doubt he will.

Meet the Highlands Elementary Beautification Cleaning Crew:

Adrian Chavez-Magana, Dariel Chavez-Magana (honorary member, Adrian’s second grade brother), Betsy Cornejo-Ibarra, Jazmin Gutierrez, Cristopher Medina Arias, Ashley Morales Jimenez, Antonio Moya-Bedolla, Johnny Perez-Lopez, Anderson Rojas-Martinez plus a handful of others who help when they can.

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