It was nearly two months ago when the CAP crew at AXL Academy debated the major problems affecting the world and their neighborhood. The class was skeptical that they could have any real impact on big problems like homelessness, clean water, worn out parks, air pollution and trash bins overflowing with recyclables. A few students debated if it was even worth the effort at all. Some crew members thought that even if they did manage to fix part of a problem in their neighborhood, others needed to do their part. The class needed to change their mindset and view the problems from a different perspective. That is when the crew learned of Ryan Hreljac’s story.
Ryan was an elementary student in 1999 when he learned of massive shortages of clean drinking water in Africa. Even though he was 6 years old then, he didn’t see the problem as insurmountable. He decided he would do chores and small jobs for family friends and neighbors. In time he raised $2,000 and sent the money to WaterCan, a non profit that provides clean drinking water to poorer countries. He didn’t stop there. He started his own non profit and in 16 years he raised funds to build 1000 wells impacting over 800,000 people. The students were inspired and from that moment they thought that just maybe they could also do something like that.
They divided into work groups each one taking up a cause thinking about how it impacted their neighborhood. They researched their causes looking at how others had chosen to tackle it and the resources available to them. In the end the crew decided they needed to do something meaningful at home and school. The school has recycling bins or at least they were supposed to be recycling bins, but, no one put recyclables in the right bin. If they wanted to change that, the crew knew that they would not only have to educate their fellow students on what goes in the recycling bins but also why recycling was so important. In the search for an action project topic the crew learned about the oceanic trash gyres, where floating plastics and other trash accumulate in the oceans. Fish and other marine life eat the plastic, becoming sick or dying. In addition, hundreds of miles of coastline and ocean habitats covered in trash and plastics make them uninhabitable and prevent life from flourishing.
The crew had their reason why, now they would recycle to clean the oceans and save the fish and marine animals. They listened to speakers that were knowledgeable about recycling and the oceanic gyres, Megan Lane from Denver Waste Management and Brandy Moe from Momentum Recycling gave them advice what they could do. Filled with ideas, they made posters to go with the recycling bins which the boys and girls scout troop were gathering for every classroom. Each student made a mock poster with diagrams, pictures and information all about recycling and the trash gyres. Each student showed the crew what they had and the best ideas were taken and used for the final draft.
The final product was something that the whole crew could be proud of. It would be a lasting reminder for all future students at AXL of the importance of recycling and how it affects the world. More importantly for the crew it would be the first step to breaking a cycle of cynicism and starting down the path of the cycle of hope.
Written by CAP Instructor Ronald Cole
A big thank you to Denver Waste Management and Momentum Recycling!