A Carbonear Collegiate student is turning a lot of heads for taking the initiative to clean up a popular lunch-hour hangout spot outside the school. And she's hoping others will do their part to make sure it doesn't get this messy again.
As is common this time of year when snow disappears, Alishia Mahaney of Harbour Grace, had noticed a lot of garbage while out for drives lately. She started collecting some of it in her home community. Then she decided to swing by her school, figuring there would be more in the parking lot.
Mahaney was blown away by what she saw – particularly when she took a peek into the area behind the shed. It's a sheltered area among trees, and slopes down to a nearby stream.
"That was the first time I've ever been there, and there was just so much mess," Mahaney told The Compass, indicating the piles of takeout food litter and cigarette packaging. She filled 11 kitchen-sized garbage bags from that area alone on May 21 and 14 altogether including other areas around the school. Elsewhere, she had filled six bags in two hours before heading to the school.
"I got the big things out of the way," the 17-year-old said. "There's still lots of cigarette butts, the packages and wrappers."
She shared images of what she'd seen and collected on social media, and received lots of attention from people in the Conception Bay North area.
"I just wanted to get it out there, so those that are maybe willing to clean it up might come by," she said. "I am blown away by the amount of reaction it's gotten."
School principal Rodney Hodder was quick to commend the Grade 11 student for her good work. He noted Carbonear Collegiate does hold an annual spring clean-up session, but it hadn't been scheduled yet.
"I found out through other staff members," Hodder told The Compass. He subsequently reached out to her for a chat and after hearing more about what she did, Hodder commended her in private and publicly through the public address system at the school.
"If we had more students who would take initiative around our environmental issues, it would make this world a better place," he said. "It's part of a culture in our school of trying to build up a culture of kindness and caring and environmental awareness. This is something that we strongly encourage."
In the announcement to the rest of the school, Hodder told students that in light of what Mahaney did, everyone should take time to consider how they can make the world a little better.
Her name even came up during the most recent Carbonear council meeting, mentioned by Coun. Danielle Doyle during a discussion about litter in the town.
"You can certainly notice the difference on the properties," said Doyle, who is also a teacher at the school. "If everyone went out and picked up two or three (bags) around the house and streets, it would certainly make a big difference now that the snow is all gone, too."
Hodder believes reinforcing the positive actions of people like Mahaney can help other students change their behaviour and recognize where they might fall short in dealing with litter around the school.
"There are garbage cans out around the building, and we obviously encourage students to use them," he said. "But there are times when I'll go out on supervision duty and right next to the garbage can, you'll see a box of Mary Brown's and a can, and it makes you wonder why it happened."
Mahaney hopes fellow students will feel more encouraged to use the garbage bins placed outside the school, going forward.
"You're not going to get everyone that's going to use it, but if you get people who just go down there and clean up every so often, then it's not going to be too bad."