The Community Service Group at Sussex Technical High School in Georgetown recently won the Delaware State Gold Medal for its schoolwide recycling program, with the award presented at the SkillsUSA award ceremony. The group is now eligible to go on to national competition, to be held in Kansas City this June.
Members Rachel Southmayd, Emily Southmayd, Sara Baker and Taylor Pridgeon make up the group, which is responsible for implementing the recycling project this January under the leadership of math teacher and Recycling Community Service Project Advisor Kristin Arrigenna. But Arrigenna stressed that the effort was all the students’.
“They really pushed it. Rachel and Sara wrote a grant for $2,500 and it was accepted by Timberland,” Arrigenna said, referring to Timberland PRO, which offered SkillsUSA chapters the opportunity to receive a $2,500 grant to complete a community service project.
“It’s huge accomplishment. They only give out 12 grants in the whole country. And the students wrote in all themselves,” explained Arrigenna.
“The grants allowed us to purchase our recycling bins. We also raised $200 from fundraising at the school and received another grant of $300 from Delmarva Power. Now we have at least one in every classroom and the office, the gym, the copy room, everywhere. They are in the entire school, including adult education and night school. Everybody’s involved.”
Arrigenna estimated that they have 10 or so medium blue bins and more than 150 of the individual classroom bins. They also have seven large bins outside, including one specifically for batteries and one for textiles, just as one might see at a public recycling center.
She went on to explain that DSWA picks up the large bins outside the school, free of charge, and also donated 12 bins to the school.
“They were an enormous help. In the beginning I was asking questions every hour and Rich Von Stetten and DSWA have been extremely easy to work with,” she said.
The group competed in the SkillsUSA Community Service State Championship on Feb. 22 and after winning first place, will now go on to compete at the national level.
Arrigenna went on to explain all technical schools can be involved in SkillsUSA, which she described as a collaboration between schools and industry with the goal of creating and empowering the young workforce. According to their Web site, SkillsUSA serves more than 280,000 students and instructors annually, has 13,000 school chapters in 54 state and territorial associations. They state that more than 14,500 instructors and administrators are professional members of SkillsUSA.
Since the project’s implementation, the school has had to add more large bins because the sheer volume is more than they originally anticipated. Student volunteers transport the inside bins to the larger bins outside so it doesn’t add to the custodians’ workload. Arrigenna reported that they have more than tripled their numbers from starting in January and have enjoyed an unexpected byproduct of recycling in such mass quantities — lower landfill costs.
“February and March recycling numbers from DSWA have shown that the school has recycled 343.4 percent more than was expected when the program began. Recycling for only one week in January totaled 1,452 pounds. Although classroom bins did not arrive until Feb. 19, February’s total was 14,080 pounds. The total jumped again in March to 17,179 pounds. And according to Facilities Director Terry Little, in dollars and cents this equates to $1,005.86 saved from landfill costs,” said Arrigenna. “We project for the year that that number could be $9,000 to 10,000 — huge in times of economic crises, such as these.
The project was implemented with the hopes that the staff, faculty and students would take the idea of recycling home and, in turn, out into the community, according to Arrigenna.
“The whole program is so successful,” she said. “It has been tremendously positive from both the staff and students alike.”
Collectively, the girls declared that same pride and gratitude to all the people helpful in making the project a success.
“We are excited about how the program has been received by the school,” said Rachel Southmayd, speaking for the group.