'That was kind of gross': Huntley students get dirty for roadside cleanup

2014-05-02T17:00:00Z 2014-05-02T23:52:06Z 'That was kind of gross': Huntley students get dirty for roadside cleanupBy MIKE FERGUSON mferguson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

HUNTLEY — Every single student at Huntley Project’s junior high and high school — all 370 of them — spent Friday morning cleaning up roadsides in the four communities that feed the school: Worden, Ballantine, Huntley and Pompeys Pillar.

“We gave them the option to opt out if they wanted to,” said Huntley Project Principal Mark Wandle, “but nobody did. Nobody stayed back. Everyone’s working.”

A pair of students in wheelchairs participated as well, plucking up trash with handheld trash grabbers.

After the cleanup, students were rewarded with grilled hamburgers with ice cream for dessert, along with the satisfaction of having beautified their communities’ roadsides.

“I think it’s a good way to help the community,” said senior Amanda Reed, talking while she scooped up trash along Huntley’s Northern Avenue. “If people realized how much trash there was, they probably wouldn’t throw so much of it out.”

Reed found her share of beer bottles and discarded pop containers, but also stumbled upon a quarter as she worked.

She and classmates Kristen Swigart, Ann-Marie Murphy and Dean Simonson at one point unearthed a large hunk of metal, which biology and health teacher Jay Santy helped the students to free.

The metal was left near the trash-laden garbage bags so that crews could haul them away. Reed used her feet to help dislodge the large round hunk of junk, which could have come off a livestock trailer years ago, while her classmates and Santy tugged it free from the dirt and earthworms that clung to it.

“That was kind of gross,” Reed said afterward.

As he worked his way along Northern Avenue headed back toward the school, Simonson came across a musical relic — a chipped, cracked CD by the Barenaked Ladies.

Wandle said the goal of the second annual Huntley Project community cleanup was to help students give back to the communities that sponsor them — and perhaps to top the 360 large bags full of trash that students gathered during last year’s inaugural cleanup.

“Or maybe our goal is not to beat that record,” Wandle said. That would demonstrate more care over the last year from littering passers-by, he said.

High school students were divided by classes, then scattered to ensure maximum coverage. Seniors focused on Huntley roadsides. Juniors cleaned up a pair of cemeteries. Sophomores turned their attention to the Pompeys Pillar monument. Freshmen walked from the school to Ballantine for their cleanup, then walked back to the school in time for the barbecue.

“That’s because freshmen have a lot of energy,” Murphy joked.

Students received safety vests and water before embarking on their half-day of work. A few who forgot their sunscreen were also offered that protection.

Wandle said he received 10 to 12 calls from people thanking him for the students’ work last year and expected some grateful calls this year, too.

Santy, the teacher who stayed with his four charges and helped them rid roadside ditches of the trash that had accumulated over the past year, praised the students’ work ethic.

“This is how they give back to the community,” he said. “They are just working right along.”

“People are always giving us support and donating” to help strengthen school activities, Swigart said, adding that the cleanup effort contributed to the “giving back to the community” theme.

“A few people have stopped to ask us who we’re with,” Murphy said. “They respect what we’re doing.”

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