Youth from the Comanche Torch Club sort through paper, cardboard and plastic materials for recycling at Fort Hood, Texas. Twelve students from the club were recognized for placing third in the Greater Fort Hood Recycle Bowl Feb. 15. (Photo Credit: Christine Luciano, Fort Hood DPW Environmental) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas - Twelve students from the Comanche Youth Center are giving back and positively impacting their peers and the military community here.

The students make up the Comanche Torch Club, which creates opportunities for volunteering and inspires youth to make meaningful change.

The club stepped up to the challenge to compete in the Greater Fort Hood Area Recycle Bowl and recycled paper, cardboard and plastic materials, winning third place.

On behalf of the Cen-Tex Sustainable Communities Partnership, Fort Hood Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Ladd recognized the students Feb. 15.

“For each of you that partook in this event, thank you for volunteering,” Ladd said. “Thank you for being a leader in helping us be better.”

The recycling competition is part of an initiative called the Youth Environmental Ambassadors! Program sponsored by the Cen-Tex Partnership and the School Liaison Office Adopt-A-School Program. YEA! fosters sustainability throughout the school year, encouraging students to participate in several initiatives that promote litter prevention, conservation, recycling and beautification.

“The steps you are all taking is absolutely important. You are helping to ensure that my kids aren’t struggling to have clean air, clean water and a green space to walk and play in,” Ladd said. “One small step at a time, you are moving us in the right direction.”

Adelynn Parker, a sixth grader, attributed the club’s win to teamwork and a drive to help others.

“All of us pitched in a good bit,” she said. “You may not think that you alone are special but you are, and together we can make a big difference.”

Pamela Cruz, a co-sponsor for the Comanche Torch Club, said the students’ volunteer mindset shows how they are already leaders and a reflection of what’s to come.

Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Ladd, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Garrison - Fort Hood, congratulates members of the Torch Club for their volunteer service in the Comanche Youth Center at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 15. (Photo Credit: Christine Luciano, Fort Hood DPW Environmental) VIEW ORIGINAL

“The Torch Club just amazes me,” she said. “They communicate and delegate to accomplish any task. You can see their excitement, and know (that) later on in the future, they are going to continue to do great things.”

Encouraging others to do great things, Parker challenged Soldiers who are not already recycling to reconsider.

“You may think recycling is too hard, but you’re in the military where it is a lot harder,” she said.

Linda Allen, Comanche Youth Center director, believes mentoring youth to become dynamic leaders is a collective effort between staff, parents and the students.

“It makes me feel good and proud of my staff and the youth we serve here every day. Not only that, the parents are also involved,” she said. “When they see other youth doing it, then they are like ‘okay, let me do it.’ Today’s recognition is letting their peers see what they did and encourages them more.”

The Torch Club’s recognition is an example of how students are strengthening Fort Hood’s recycling program through volunteerism and service.

“Continue pressuring your peers to do the right thing,” Ladd said. “Thank you all for what you did and what you are going to continue to do.”