Dearing Elementary School is undergoing a "massive recycling program," according to Principal Laura Hughes, and it's all thanks to two second graders who wouldn't give up.
Dr. Hughes said she was approached "not one time, but many - maybe 20 times" by Robin Mims and Abigayle Kelley requesting a recycling program in the school.
"And they came to me individually," Dr. Hughes said. "They didn't know the other one was coming to me."
When a child comes to her with a big idea, Dr. Hughes said she tries to channel the grand thoughts into a "doable plan" without actually giving them the plan. The principal said the girls' personalities shined through in their plans.
Robin, who is outgoing and bubbly, wanted the school to handle the recycling for the entire town. She wanted to be in a news show about recycling to encourage the students to get involved.
Abigayle, who is quiet and methodical, did some research and drew up a proposal which she turned in to Dr. Hughes, along with a pamphlet from the Thomson-McDuffie Recycling Center.
"So, Robin had the passion and wanted to do something with it. She's the performer, the up front person," Dr. Hughes said in a telephone interview. "Abby is the behind the scenes person. ... Yet, Abby is the follow-through girl. They both have such different strengths and they both have talents. ... And I firmly believe that these kids can change the world."
Abigayle's proposal had a list of suggestions to implement a recycling program in the school, which included placing bins in the lunchroom, hallways, bathrooms and work rooms. The proposal even covered details such as supplying a container in which to drain drink containers and a plan to bag the trash for city workers to pick up once a week.
"I know it means the cleaning people will have a little more work, but every little bit helps in a big way," Abigayle's proposal said. "All of this will help prevent putting trash in our land fields. I want this earth to be here and safe for my kids' kids."
And the principal listened. Dr. Hughes said she met with Peter Ruddick, the public works director of the City of Thomson, and they created a plan for including the school in Thomson's recycling program.
"He is fantastic. And he brought all our bins out here, and he talked to me for a long time," Dr. Hughes said. "He's very amiable to working with us and he wants to give it a try."
Realizing that Abigayle was right when she stated the cleaning people would have a little more work, Dr. Hughes also considered the extra burden such a program could be on the teachers. As a result, a training program for the students was implemented.
"If each individual child does his or her share, then we can make a huge difference," Dr. Hughes said.
Dr. Hughes met with Robin and Abigayle, and together, they built on Robin's idea to produce a show. On Wednesday, April 30, the students and teachers participated in a "Trash for Cash" recycling fashion show. Presented on stage for the entire student body, the fashion show featured students and teachers dressed as "trash" that can and cannot be recycled.
Dr. Hughes gave Robin and Abigayle first choice of how they wanted to appear in the show. True to their nature, Robin chose to be the first model on stage, and Abigayle was the last. After it was over, Abigayle said she really didn't like being on stage, "but if it will make a difference, then it will be worth it."
And her cohort agreed.
"We have to do something," Robin said. "If we don't, pretty soon, Dearing won't be anything but a pile of junk."
The students also began rinsing their milk cartons that day, and placing them in a separate bin for recycling. After just one day, the experience was a real eye-opener. Dr. Hughes said the cartons filled one entire 90-gallon garbage can and half of another one.
"That's a lot of milk cartons for one day. And that's not even mentioning the scrap paper we produce," she said. "We have 453 kids in our school. And if each one learns to recycle and then teaches their parents what to recycle, then together, Dearing Elementary kids can change the world."