March 25, 2002 11:00 pm

One of the biggest lessons kids need to learn as they grow up is that the world isnt just about me. One of the ways some area schools are helping students learn the value of being part of a community is through senior projects. A recent story in the The Observer highlighted one such project. Laura Stauffer of Elgin has made a big difference in her community.

Stauffer, for her senior project at Elgin High School, orchestrated an improvement project at the Elgin Recycling Center. She helped put the recycling center and the communitys willingness to recycle on a solid footing.

Stauffer recognized that, although Elgin residents were doing a good job of recycling, they would likely do a better job if the access to the recycling containers could be improved during winter and spring months, when rain made access to the bins formidable at best.

The puddles that formed werent just the kind that people could easily find their way around. They were almost large enough for stocking trout, joked Darin Larvik, operations manager for City Garbage Service of

La Grande, the company that provides garbage and recycling services in Elgin. He acknowledged that anyone who wanted to use the recycling center had to be a die hard and that because of the access difficulties many people probably just threw their recyclables into the trash.

Stauffer raised funds to build a 56- by 27-foot concrete pad for the two recycling bins, and to add fencing to catch the lightweight stuff that blows out of the bins. She reconstructed the recycling center with $3,009 in contributions she raised and $5,000 worth of labor and time donated by professionals and volunteers. She also worked with Dara Decker, Union Countys emergency services manager and an assistant planner, in getting a $17,450 grant from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. The grant will be used to purchase about five recycling bins for use around the county, one of which will be added to the Elgin Recycling Center.

Stauffer has set a good example for other students to follow. She has made a huge difference in her community, one that will be seen and felt for years to come. Her motivation was doing a senior project that would matter to her hometown. She did that, and because of her efforts Elgins recycling center will see more use.

Stauffer, who is also active and successful in FFA, is even considering a career in public administration.

Elgin is one of several schools in the area that requires seniors to complete a project. The program helps youths to see that what they do in life and that giving back to their communities does matter. Senior projects, like the Boy Scouts Eagle projects, make a difference in youths and communities. As community members we should be supportive of youths requests for assistance when they come calling for help with a senior project.