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Students help community, themselves through recycling

KOLOA — Breezy trades have a way of evoking squeals of delight.

Four Koloa School fifth-graders punctuated their recycling stint outside the Koloa Public/School Library with those squeals as the trades added an element of excitement to their collection Wednesday, student Cara Kruse chasing down wind-borne plastic bags that somehow found ways to escape their control.

“We made it on time,” smiled Kim Melchor, a parent, as two of the four girls ran up to her car to collect two bagfuls of plastic drink bottles and aluminum cans.

“Usually, we’re a little late, but today, we made it. This saves us a trip to the recycling center,” Melchor said.

Suzanne Kashiwaeda, the group’s chaperone and advisor, explained that the group only does plastic and cans for safety reasons.

Working since school started, the 33 fifth-grade students have faithfully manned their station each Wednesday. Proceeds from the collections are presented to other community organizations that could use help.

Starting with nothing but the cheers and dreams in their hearts, the group now works with equipment and supplies that have become part of their collection efforts.

At the heart of the collection is a wire basket similar to the recycling bins the county installed at parks and various public sites to aid recycling.

The wire bin used by the Koloa School students was created by Kawika Matsumoto, Kashiwaeda’s son, who has his own business, Mow and Whack.

“He doesn’t do weeds,” she said.

About five weeks ago, the group invited a representative of the Hawaii Children’s Theatre to accept a check from their first collection efforts. Today, Shelley Gerardo of Kaua‘i Special Olympics is expected to visit the school to accept the efforts of the fifth-grade class’ second presentation.

Kashiwaeda said they haven’t decided who will be the recipient of the third presentation that will wrap up this year’s efforts in late May.

Students sign up for duty between 7 a.m. and 7:40 a.m., where they do a variety of tasks, punctuated by impromptu cheers to thank people for recycling. The group rotates, with different students taking their turns each Wednesday while school is in session.

Kashiwaeda said that, since they just came off a break, collection numbers were down Wednesday, but she anticipates a return to the brisk numbers now that people know that school is back in session.

Recyclers, on the other hand, have curbside service, as cars simply drive up to the sidewalk area fronting the Koloa Public/School Library, and there is no hesitation on the part of the student collectors who greet the cars.

“We kind of just make it up,” the students said while working to remove plastic caps from bottles, and segregating the bottles from the cans between drop-offs.

“The busiest time is just before they quit,” Kashiwaeda explained. “That’s when all the parents are dropping off students.” However, the group has been recipients of community individuals and organizations who don’t have children attending Koloa School, as they bring their recycling items for the students.

The “Trash to Treasures” program was started under Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste’s drug-prevention model, Kashiwaeda explained.

Basically, it involves the students being part of a group and being connected to the community. Kashiwaeda said the successful program teaches the students to be more resistant to the influences of drugs and alcohol.

The demonstration of that success came as Kashiwaeda announced the end of their Wednesday collection.

Due to the number of items brought in, the entire setup had to be relocated to Kashiwaeda’s class, where segregation would have to be done later.

There were no words of complaints from the quartet. They simply and knowingly went to their positions and started lugging the collection across the campus.

A gust of wind whipped through the sweat-jacketed group, its fingers managing to slip a plastic bag free which sailed across the lawn.

Their hands full, four pairs of eyes watched its flight, one cheerful voice singing, “bye, bye!”

• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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