In Rocklin, California, seven teenagers took the initiative to make a difference in their community. Chanakya Sharma, Paige Matthews, Sara Donnellan, Tracey Bontilao, Natasha Henmi, Nathan Stewart and Trenton Bilyeu were all part of the Spirit of America leadership conference at Valley Forge in April, and were inspired to return home and make a change after an inspiring seminar on civic duty. Said Matthews about the class, “It was super neat to see how simple it can be to improve your city. I never realized until then that it doesn’t have to be a life changing event, something as small as a community clean-up can bring people together for a common goal.” While some would shrug off this revelation, her and the others decided to act on it. Creating a group chat and having a large planning meeting three weeks in advance, the details were worked out and plans made for the Community Clean-up. It was hosted on June 2, from 10-12 in the afternoon behind the Blue Oaks shopping center. The City of Rocklin was there handing out supplies and vests to the participants, who soon got to work picking up trash.
The event was targeted at involving teens in the community, so three different high schools were solicited for volunteers for the clean-up. In total there were 20 participants, varying from Rocklin, Whitney, and Lincoln high, and many thought it a great opportunity to get to know other people their age. Said Joerell Fulmore, “I think the idea of working with other people from different schools was wonderful… It [was] a chance to make new friends and find out what potential others have.” The smaller number of volunteers helped people to branch outside themselves and talk to new people, as well as making sure everyone had enough work to do for the two hours. Events such as these help bridge the gap of high school rivalries and create a cohesive community.
The clean-up was a large success, with the volunteers gathering more than 8 large bags of trash, and forging friendships while they were at it.
When asked about whether or not they would continue to do communityprojects such as these, Henmi said “We definitely will look at doing another event like this, because it gave all of us a great opportunity to become more active in our community”. The Community Clean-up was a valuable life experience for these youth, in which they learned that change can be made by simple acts of service, and that no one is too young to make a difference in their community.