By Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of Sophie Zhao, DC Elementary School Program Teacher
This past weekend, AALEADers, mentors, staff members, and our friends over at CAPAL (Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership) participated in the 25th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. Though it was a bit chilly in the morning, the clouds looming overhead eventually drifted away, and all that could be seen for the rest of the day were bright blue skies. As our students made their way over to Rock Creek Park, their energy and enthusiasm could be heard in their cheers and laughter.
The day started off with a brief orientation by our site coordinator, and off they were! AALEADers were handed gloves and trash bags, and then they were assigned to an area of the park to clean up. As they trudged their way through the mud, across the river, and over the grassy patches, AALEADers found many interesting things. From shoes to fossils, a CD, and even a car door, they discovered a myriad of items that were simply thrown away or forgotten in the park. In doing so, AALEADers became quite the explorers as they climbed over rocks and marched through the grass in order to do their part in keeping our Earth clean.
After two hours of picking up trash and recyclables throughout the Park, AALEADers were ready for lunch. They gathered with our mentors, staff members, and CAPAL volunteers at the nearby picnic tables to munch on delicious granola bars, fruit snacks, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Once everyone was re-energized, AALEADers began to mingle with the new friendly faces that they did not have the opportunity to meet and get to know earlier that morning.
By helping to make the park a more beautiful and vibrant place, AALEADers learned about the importance of civic engagement, and how one’s actions can both positively and negatively impact our community and the world around us. As the event came to an end, AALEADers reflected on their surprise at the great amount of trash strewn across the area and discussed what they could do to help make their neighborhoods a cleaner place to live. Their motivated and lively conversations about what they could do to make the world a better place highlight the significance of community service and the positive impact that these opportunities have on our youth.
Special shout out to all of the elementary school students, mentors, mentees, staff, and CAPAL members who were able to join us! Also, our deepest thanks to CAPAL for providing the snacks for our students and Doug Barker from the Rock Creek Conservancy for helping us coordinate this event. We are so happy that we were able to share this wonderful experience together, and we hope to see you all again soon!