KILLEEN, Texas — In support of the Youth Environmental Ambassadors!, or YEA! program, Schools from Killeen and Copperas Cove Independent School Districts volunteered more than 250 hours helping to cleanup over 400 pounds of litter, collected about 3,800 pounds of recyclables and helped to beautify their campus with kindness rocks and a native garden space.
YEA! promotes sustainability throughout the school year, encouraging students to participate in several initiatives that stimulate litter prevention, conservation, recycling and beautification and is hosted by the Cen-Tex Sustainable Communities Partnership and the School Liaison Office Adopt-A-School Program.
“YEA! gives us an opportunity to spread awareness and encourage youth to reflect on their daily choices of how they can be good stewards of the environment,” Tina Smith, school liaison officer, Child and Youth Services, said. “Despite challenges of the pandemic, these students were still able to complete initiatives that made their campus and community a better place.”
The efforts of two schools stood out and were recognized, May 27, at their campus by Fort Hood and Nolanville staff members from the Cen-Tex partnership and the Fort Hood School Liaison Office and awarded $200 to help with environmental initiatives for the next academic year.
Winning the School Beautification Challenge was Reeces Creek Elementary and the honors of the top champion for overall efforts in the YEA! program was Brookhaven Elementary.
Reeces Creek’s student council and first graders partnered together to help beautify their campus with a litter cleanup and kindness rocks.
“Along with academics, one of the biggest things we try to teach the students the spirit of kindness and grace and taking care of each other,” Dr. Sara Watson, principal, Reeces Creek, said. “As role changers, we instill that we are a ‘No Place for Hate’ campus and we accept everybody for who they are.”
Reeces Creek school counselor Shana Heikkinen was proud of the hard work and dedication of her student council members.
“Our students took the lead and encouraged and shared in their class meetings to get peers involved,” she said. “It just takes one person to get it started and spread the word to help your environmental efforts grow.”
Brookhaven’s principal, Iris Fedler, was amazed by the honor her school received as the top champion in the YEA! Program and their recognition for participation in the Lights out Lunch, Texas Recycles! poster contest, School Beautification Challenge, Greater Fort Hood Area Recycle Bowl and Don’t Mess with Texas Trash-Off.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment to do something for the first time and have fun but also win overall. The bar is set; we need to keep it going and do it bigger and better next year,” Fedler said. “This award shows what the Brookhaven family can do when you come together, have a purpose and are passionate about something, we can move mountains.”
Fedler shared the importance of instilling environmental and community stewardship at a young age and its domino effect.
“If we can expose them in school at a young age and see the importance of it, then that spreads from the campus to the home and from home to the community and neighborhood,” she said.
Seeing first-hand the benefits of YEA!, as Fedler transitions to her new role as executive director for elementary schools, she plans to gain involvement from other campuses.
“My goal is to show anyone can do it,” she said. “By embedding YEA! with the curriculum, kids gain a real world aspect to help them learn and understand the difference they can make.”
For more information about the YEA! Program and Cen-Tex Partnership, visit Facebook.com/CentexSustains.