WILLOW STUDENTS PITCH IN TO CLEAN UP DOWNTOWN

November 04, 2002 11:00 pm
LITTER PATROL: Willow Elementary third-graders Tyler Holland, left, and Jeff McConnell walk in front of a group of students collecting litter during their school's annual Downtown Cleanup. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
LITTER PATROL: Willow Elementary third-graders Tyler Holland, left, and Jeff McConnell walk in front of a group of students collecting litter during their school's annual Downtown Cleanup. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

The streets of downtown La Grande are lighter and have a volt or two less energy now thanks to many hard-working Willow Elementary School students.

The students, in grades 2-6, picked up 257 pounds of trash during their school's seventh- annual Downtown Cleanup Friday. The students picked up cigarette butts, paper, pieces of pipe, metal and even a 33-pound automobile battery.

The project gave students like second-grader Dakota Meadows a sense of satisfaction.

"I liked helping the community have a better downtown,'' Dakota said. "...It was really fun and we got a lot of exercise.''

The children in second and third grades picked up 201 pounds of garbage. They didn't pick up more items than the older students but they did find heavier objects because they picked up litter in the Jefferson Avenue area near the railroad tracks.

The children in grades 4-6 did most of their litter pickup in the residential portions of Adams and Washington avenues.

Willow's kindergartners and first-graders didn't go downtown but picked up litter around their school.

Dennis Young, Willow's resource room teacher and the chairman of the Downtown Cleanup, hopes the annual project will help students develop lifetime habits.

"As they grow up, we want them to learn that it is as easy to put trash in a garbage can as it is to toss it on the street,'' Young said.

Willow received assistance from the City of La Grande, the school's business partner. The city provided safety vests, gloves and bags.

Students were asked not to pick up sharp things such as needles and glass. Adults handled these objects.

One of the many positive spinoffs of the project is that it allowed children to interact with downtown business owners.

Merchants would ask the children what they were doing and the students would explain.

"It gave the children a chance to be seen in a positive light,'' Young said. "...It showed that the schools care about the community and want to give back.''