Learning for Life aims to put LHS recycling first


Christina Turlik

Owen Gamba, Jakob Connelly, and Mike Wilkerson collect recycling.

By Will Foreman, Linganore HS, Frederick, Md.

The football rivalries between Linganore, Oakdale and Urbana are intense and passionate. On Friday nights we paint up, we scream, and we bleed red and black. The real contest, though, is not football – it’s recycling. The Learning for Life students are going for the I-70 trophy of trash. They want LHS to be #1 in Frederick County.

Because of Frederick County’s recycling initiative, FCPS and Frederick County Waste Management record how much recycled material is picked up from each of its schools. Last year, Linganore recycled a measly 15,300 pounds of material – one of the lowest in the county among high schools – while rival school Urbana recycled 32,068 pounds. That’s not something to show Lancer Pride about, and the students in the Learning for Life program decided to do something about it. (See the current report here.)

Earlier this year, assistant principal Mr. Jan Witt came to Mrs. Mary Cate Henry, special education teacher, and told her about Linganore’s recycling problem. They decided to take action. “A few times a week we go around and collect the recycling bins. There are a few places we go every time, like the gym hallway, the band hallway, and the office, but other than that, we go to any free classrooms,” said Henry.

The good news is that they’re really impacting the totals. Through January, Linganore recycled 14,260 pounds, only 1040 pounds fewer than what was collected all of last year, which means that by now, last year’s total could already be passed.

Not only are they doing a great job, but the students enjoy the work. “We have a lot of naturally hard workers,” Henry said. The students collect recyclables every few days.

Learning for Life is a program for students with special needs. The program teaches them valuable life skills, with the goal of the program being to enable students to gain employment once they leave high school. In the mornings, they run a coffee cart called Kehne’s Beans to deliver coffee and tea to teachers. They also clean the cafeteria, deliver mail, do laundry, and help teachers by hole punching and stapling papers.

“We teach them job skills like sorting things, responsibility, and helping others,” said Mrs. Henry.

“We go to places like the aquarium, Target, Home Depot, and Chick-fil-A,” Mrs. Henry said. “They really like to get out of school. The students earn the money for the field trips through Kehne’s Beans.” The field trips are meant to put them into real-life situations so that they know what to do when they’re on their own.

According to the environmental website Treehugger, the average school tosses 38 tons of paper, the equivalent of 644 trees, each year. However, each ton of paper recycled can save 17 trees. This means that last year Linganore saved about 119 trees.

Annmarie Creamer, Recycling Outreach Program Coordinator at the Frederick County Department of Solid Waste Management stated that, “In the last school year, FCPS facilities placed more than 1,013,844 pounds of material into recycling bins. So far this school year, 502,310 pounds have been recycled. All of that would have been buried in a landfill if not for the initiative to recycle.”

“The simplest step is to make sure that there’s a recycling bin next to every trash can in every classroom and lunch area. Most folks won’t walk across the room, or leave an area to recycle something, so it has to be easy. Make sure the gym, the athletic fields, the computer labs…except for bathrooms (paper towels aren’t recyclable), every space that has waste bins needs recycling bins,” said Creamer.

Even though everyone here at Linganore recycles, the Learning for Life students do the real heavy lifting. If Linganore wins the recycling contest, it will be on their shoulders.

The County Department of Solid Waste Management is sponsoring a Recycling Essay Contest, open to all Frederick County students. The deadline is March 28th. The prizes consist of up to $150 and the winning essays will be published in the Frederick News Post on Earth Day. Entry forms and complete info can be found online.

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