Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Dr. Melinda Garcia, 210-631-0400, Melinda.email@example.com
PADRE ISLAND – More than 50 students and parents from 4-H programs at Leal Middle School, Harlandale High School and St. John Berchmans Catholic School recently traveled by school bus to Padre Island to participate in the 2018 Big Shell Cleanup at the Padre Island National Seashore.
The Padre Island National Seashore separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre. The park protects 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies and wind flats, and provides a habitat for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and more than 380 bird species.
“Students and parents from our Children, Youth and Families At-Risk, or CYFAR, program, including members of St. John Berchmans Knights 4-H club and the Juntos 4-H program at Leal and Harlandale participated” said Dr. Melinda Garcia, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service strategic partnerships and engagement specialist, Bexar County.
“Providing life experiences and opportunities for community service are cornerstones of the 4-H program. In this instance, we gave the students the opportunity to learn about the sea and sea life and the opportunity to provide a community service by helping clean up the beach.”
Garcia said the cleanup was done in collaboration with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
“Our students were met by a park ranger who is also a 4-H alum,” she said. “The students were provided bags and tools for picking up trash, which included netting, bottles, paper items, Styrofoam, discarded shoes and a variety of plastic items.”
The students from kindergarten to 10th grade were sworn in as Junior Park Rangers and received patches and wooden Junior Park Ranger badges in appreciation for their work.
“For the educational component of the trip, students had to work in teams to find answers regarding facts about the sea, coastal animals and the responsibility people have to keep their beaches clean,” Garcia said. “They learned how hurricanes can impact our seashores and communities and about the sea life that is an important part of the ecosystem.”
Roxanne Toscano, a parent-volunteer and 4-H club manager at St. John Berchmans, said the cleanup was a rewarding experience for the students.
“Community service offers our kids the building blocks for them to grow into contributing adults and leaders,” Toscano said. “Not only did those who participated make a significant effort toward cleaning up the beach, they learned the importance of protecting our marine life and developed meaningful relationships with some of the people of Padre Island, as well as with other students, parents and mentors.”
Irene Flores, a parent-volunteer and Juntos 4-H club manager at Harlandale High School, said the trip was also an eye-opening experience for the students.
“It was great to see all the children of all ages take part in this wonderful cleanup for the Gulf Coast, which was impacted by Hurricane Harvey and other disasters,” Flores said. “The students were amazed with everything that they found from sea shells to ocean life and even watching crabs battling it out on the beach.
“This was a unique experience that they were able to take back home to share with family, friends and their peers,” she said. “For many of them, the memories will last a lifetime.”