Young people are often told “you are the leaders of tomorrow.” In my humble opinion, that is just not true. While young people are going to be leaders in the future, they are already incredible leaders today. I have witnessed again and again that youth hold a great deal of knowledge, power, compassion, and the ability to lead. At our Coastal Cleanup Day this past September, we saw numerous groups of kids, adolescents, and young adults volunteering their time for the planet. At one point during the event at Shimada Friendship Park, I looked out at the crowd listening to my orientation talk, and saw over 100 faces belonging to people under the age of 18.
Groups included various community service clubs from high schools in Contra Costa County, church groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, university classes, and groups of friends. At Shimada Friendship Park, one group of kids started the cleanup off by running laps and stretching. A group of high school students at the Albany Bulb assisted with a special trash assessment project. Other high school students decided to turn the day into a competition between five Key Clubs from five different schools. Of the 800 volunteers that came to our two main sites, the majority were youth, all of them ready, enthusiastic, and tireless!
One notable group of high school students at Shimada Friendship Park cooked lunch for all of our 400 volunteers. This was a class from Mount Diablo High School in Concord who are a part of the Sustainable Hospitality Pathway. Students gain career skills through a very hands-on curriculum. In addition to learning how to cook healthy meals, the students grow organic produce at their school to provide healthy food for their peers. They grow food indoors through hydroponic systems as well as outside on their quarter acre farm in between classrooms. Cindy Gershen, a nutrition teacher, partners with an environmental science teacher to run this innovative program. To gain real-world experience, students often practice cooking for large groups of people at community events. With the support of Supervisor John Gioia, we were fortunate to partner with some of these incredible students. Cooking for 400 people is no easy feat, and they did this beautifully, providing us with truly delicious rice, chicken, vegetables, and salad.
This group of dedicated and talented students brought a very important element to our event. They reminded us that we can do something every single day to affect our planet in a positive way. It is not just the third Saturday of every September for Coastal Cleanup Day that we should be thinking about our role in our ecosystem, but every day when we go shopping, cook meals, and run our businesses.
According to the California Coastal Commission, the following are the results from the state: “With 75% of the cleanup sites reporting, the statewide count stands at 53,555 volunteers. Those volunteers picked up 548,450 pounds of trash and an additional 65,738 pounds of recyclable materials, for a total of 614,188 pounds or 307 tons.” This would not have possible without all of our inspiring youth groups leading the way to a cleaner planet!