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Taking out the trash: PSM and PSH students tidy up the high school campus

Published on Tuesday, March 23, 2021

group shot of high schoolers with garbage bags   middle schoolers with garbage bags

Provided photos


About a dozen Philip Simmons middle and high school students recently came together on a Sunday to clean up trash around the high school campus.

Their efforts resulted in 12 bags of litter that were sent off to the Berkeley County Trash Center. Now the students are hopeful to make this a quarterly event with more student participation, and expand its efforts to keep the three Philip Simmons schools’ surrounding areas clean.

The big clean up started with ninth-grader Maverick Heater, who noticed a large amount of litter while running on the trails in the woods surrounding the high school when he was training for cross country.

“There’s a lot more trash build up, especially with all the sports events happening now,” he said.

Maverick teamed up with his friend and fellow ninth-grader Sophia Shulse to round up some classmates and spend a few hours on March 14 to come out to the school and collect trash. The group signed up as a PalmettoPride Clean Team, calling itself the “Cainhoy Clean Team”. PalmettoPride supplied the students with gloves and bags to collect the garbage.

“I felt really good about it and definitely wanted to keep…doing it,” Shulse said. “Even when we were done we are kind of…starting to plan the next one. We all felt good about it – it felt like we actually did make a difference. We left knowing it was cleaner.”

Maverick and Shulse were joined by ninth-graders Walt Gregg, Macey MacGloan, Miller Cannon, Benton Scafano, Mia Cobb and Liam Floyd, and 11th-grader Ella Floyd.

Maverick’s younger sister, Saylor, a sixth-grader at the middle school, also joined in along with her two friends, fifth-graders Lily Bryson and Grace Hatcher.

Maverick was pleased with the turnout for the first clean up event.

“It gave me a lot of faith that people wanted to actually help out around the school, and that people have noticed it,” he said, adding, “We filled up all the bags we had.”

To accomplish their goal, the students split up into groups to cover more ground. Students reported all sorts of bizarre items they found while cleaning up: a pair of pants, a hammer, and even a giant plastic kiddy pool from off the side of the road.

high school group with all the full garbage bags and kiddy pool

“There was a lot of questionable things we found out there,” Maverick said.

Saylor now wants to organize her own clean-up team with more middle school students. The girls particularly want to tackle the area around the middle and elementary schools’ shared campus.

The girls said they anticipated only finding a little bit of trash but were surprised by how much they found – Styrofoam, pieces of cardboard, cigarette buds, glass bottles, coke cans and more.

The fifth-graders said they are currently learning about pollution in terms of minimizing pollutants to help the environment. Saylor said the sixth-graders are learning about the good and bad effects COVID-19 has had on the environment.

One of the bad impacts is how with more people working from home, they are not driving as much and therefore walking a lot more and subsequently littering more as well. The girls found a lot of thrown-out masks during their cleanup – even some brand new ones still preserved inside of their original packaging.

Saylor encourages other students to take pride in their school.

“You shouldn’t just throw trash everywhere,” she said. “You should try to help clean up your school and want to have your school (be) clean.”

Lily Bryson said the experience taught her that maybe people do not put a lot of thought into properly disposing their trash and how it can hurt the environment.

“I feel like people…think when they eat something, ‘well this tiny piece of trash isn’t going to hurt anything’ – but actually it hurts a lot of things, like animals,” she said.

Grace Hatcher added that if people did not litter then these big group clean-ups would not be needed – but she said she was happy to do it.

“I’ve seen a lot of trash when we’re driving to school so I was actually really excited about it,” she said.

The middle and high school students said they hope their actions show others that they need to be accountable for themselves when it comes to throwing their trash away, and maybe

“I feel like there’s a lot more for us to do but I also feel like this is very promising,” Maverick said. “I think it’s just a very cool prospect that I can make a difference in my community and my environment – that I can go out there and help clean up.”

Shulse said she hopes their efforts will garner interest from more classmates wanting to join the next cleanup.

“Just because you’re in high school, doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference in your community,” she said.

Philip Simmons middle and high school principals Charla Groves and Chris Buccholz applauded the students for their efforts.

“I thought it was great,” Buccholz said. “It think it’s great that, especially the younger kids, they are taking pride in their school.”

Groves said she is proud of her middle schoolers’ efforts.

“I was just really proud that they, on their own, were motivated to go out and do good works for the community, for the schools, for the environment,” Groves said. “It makes me proud that they’re responsible and they care, and they’re young people taking action. That’s important for them to know and for everybody to know: you don’t have to be an old person to make change.”

middle schoolers collecting trash   



Monica Kreber