Just when I think Midway Middle School is about as incredible as it possibly can be, something like this happens.
MMS recently placed first nationally in the PepsiCo Recycle Rally in their school-size category. MMS is one of three schools in the nation that will receive $25,000. You may remember that last year, MMS placed second in this contest and won $11,000. I thought that achievement was incredible, but that was not good enough for MMS — it wanted to win!
The contest encourages recycling in schools and communities. Participating schools collect plastic bottles and aluminum cans for recycling. MMS and its supporters collected 226,499 bottles and cans since starting the project last fall.
You’ll hear more about MMS and its win in the next few days, as PepsiCo will honor the school at 1:30 p.m. Monday with a celebration in the gymnasium. This article is to thank those of you who spent extra time and effort to support the school and invite you to the ceremony.
Here’s my theory about why this happened. Most schools in Liberty County recycle at least a couple of items in their schools. I certainly appreciate all of their efforts. In schools in this day and age, administrators, staff, teachers and students are pulled in so many different directions daily. I appreciate their efforts to make recycling a priority however they can.
But how does something like MMS’ showing happen? I have had the pleasure of partnering with the school in a number of ways during the last eight years. The participants are pretty amazing to watch.
I think it boils down to two amazing women: Joy Kennedy, a math teacher and advisor for the MMS Green Team Club, and MMS Principal Debra Frazier. Kennedy is the Pied Piper of Recycling at MMS and has been an inspiration to Green Team Club members over the years as well as the student body and fellow staff members. MMS came on the recycling scene in 2006 during another national contest called Return the Warmth, in which schools recycled plastic water bottles. MMS and Liberty Elementary both placed in the top 10 nationally. Our community benefitted as well, as the schools received 2,000 blue jackets made of recycled plastic bottles; the jackets were distributed to students in need.
David Sapp — my retired boss and, at that time, the Liberty County solid-waste director — hooked up with Leah Poole, then with the United Way, and the Builders Club at MMS to join for this competition. They really started a great thing.
The win spurred the school, club and “recycling freak” Kennedy (written with great endearment) to recycle more and to look for ways to recycle creatively. Since then, MMS placed in the top 20 in that same contest in its third and last year. MMS also won state and national Keep America Beautiful awards for a delightful campaign to recycle plastic milk bottles.
The school started recycling more types of items to raise funds for its club, the Builders Club, which eventually morphed into the Green Team. Participants chose this change because so much of their focus has become environmental — litter cleanups, tree plantings and, of course, recycling. They now recycle more than 80 items, for which they also have won state and national awards. The Terracycle Corporation even has contacted them to find out how they recycle so much.
MMS created a designated room that is sort of a cross between a mini-landfill and recycling hub. Every day, club members come in before and after school to sort recycling among different bins and containers.
What Kennedy and her club have accomplished is amazing, but they could never have accomplished it without the tremendous support from Frazier. School principals are under so much pressure, and I commend Frazier for realizing the life lessons her students will carry with them for participating in these efforts. She has made this fun and competitive.
There is another amazing woman who has made this accomplishment possible. Brenda Hearn, recycling coordinator for Liberty County, has a tiny staff that collects recycling at schools, businesses and recycling centers. She never has hesitated to support whatever was needed to collect the tremendous increase in collections at the school during these competitions — even though it has meant doubling and tripling her staff’s workload. She and her staff have been incredible.
Thank you to an amazing corporation, PepsiCo, for making this opportunity possible. Thank you to an awesome school family; an amazing club, advisor and school administrator; and the terrific Liberty County community for supporting this competition.
Midway Middle School, you rock!