Students at Harold Holliday, Sr. Montessori School were working to keep their school grounds a beautiful place to welcome visitors when they encountered a problem: illegal dumping.
Located on Jackson Avenue by Swope Park, Holliday classes take turns throughout the school year cleaning up around the school’s surroundings, including the nearby bridge over one of the park’s many trails. However, after one class took their turn picking up garbage, they returned the next day to find even more bags of trash.
“We want our bridge to be clean and not dirty so people won’t say that we have a dirty neighborhood,” Holliday fourth grader Jacey Toney said. “Trash goes off the bridge and into the lake.”
Even after placing trash cans around the school yard and asking neighbors to help, garbage just kept coming. Frustrated, the students set their sights on someone more apt to affect change, Kansas City Mayor Sly James. They reached out to Mayor James requesting a city sign to inform neighbors and visitors to not dump by their school. The City of Kansas City was listening.
“We saw the story on Fox 4 at noon and this is civic engagement at its finest,” John Baccala, Communications and Community Liaison at the city’s Neighborhood and Housing Services Department said. “We are so proud of these kids that they took it to this level and decided to get involved to make something happen.”
The city installed three “No Dumping” signs off Jackson Avenue to let offenders know they are forewarned to stop the illegal dumping. Alan Ashurst, an illegal dumping investigator for the city, addressed the students as they prepared to raise the sign.
“This lets potential dumpers know that when they get caught, they will receive a fine up to $1,000,” Ashurst said to the students. “Next time you see bags of garbage, give us a call and we will come out and investigate the trash to find some clue to the identity of the offender. It all helps stop the dumping.”
For Holliday teachers, this has been a valuable lesson in problem solving and community civics, finding ways to get the elected leaders and city servants involved.
“This is Civics 101, what you do and how you get things accomplished and they did everything by the book,” Baccala said.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the students,” Holliday Principal Kalinda Bass-Barlow said. “The way the students and staff worked together to solve the problem, it’s wonderful to see the great things happening at our school.”