As the culminating service reward for completing the Child and Youth Services Summer Challenge, 19 young residents from the Kwajalein community conducted a trash clean-up on the island of Bigej Aug. 1.
The second iteration of the month-long program challenges participants enrolled in grades 6 – 12 to complete an array of academic, physical fitness and environmental challenges: retrieving at least 300 pounds of trash, completing an approved education project and performing 28 hours of physical activity.
“I really enjoyed the physical activity part because I don’t go out very much,” said rising eighth-grader Rachel Harper. “It was nice just to do that and to get out of the house.”
Harper fulfilled the requirement with volunteerism at the Bargain Bazaar and checked out island Spin and Boot Camp classes.
The participants far exceeded program outcomes.
Here are some startling program statistics from program advisor Rachel Raczynski. Together, participants collected 6,523 pounds of trash. For those keeping count, that’s 523 pounds beyond the overall goal. They also completed a total of 609 hours of physical activity collectively—more than 40 hours beyond the collective goal; and completed the four-part educational challenge using an array of options. Some preferred to compose a book summary. Others opted to conduct an interview, checked out Kwajalein’s WWII self-guided tour, made up their own “wild card” option or completed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lincoln Laboratory Beaver Works Summer Institute.
Following a brief awards ceremony at the Small Boat Marina with U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll Commander Col. Thomas Pugsley, participants received program certificates and boarded the USAV Great Bridge for a ride to Bigej for a Host Nation community engagement.
“If the reason you did this was so you could get a ride on the Great Bridge, you did it for the wrong reasons… The purpose of this event was to give you more opportunities over the summer, to keep you occupied, to help you get outside and to hammer home the important lesson,” said Pugsley. “The lesson is to be a better person, community member and neighbor—to take an opportunity to take a look at yourself, improve yourself and to be an active and contributing member of society.”
Though 20 youth completed the Bigej event, one stayed behind: Ethan Acosta, who opted to complete his day’s duty as a Kwajalein lifeguard so the beach would not be left unguarded.
Onboard, participants checked out the three-level LCU and enjoyed the view from the prow before disembarking, grabbing trash bags and gathering up beach trash in three teams.
Of course, the reward trip wasn’t all work and no play. During the 45-minute voyage to Bigej, the crew prepared an afternoon snack—pizza—and Capt. Ron Sylvester provided a tour of the bridge and one of his famous “man overboard” drills. Among the usual plastic bottles, crushed aluminum cans and derelict fishing buoys was an interesting find. Program advisor Nate Rios happened upon a cache of WWII-era glass Coca-Cola bottles which will be turned over to historical preservation authorities.