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W-WG students giving back to their community: Fifty-two youths participate in Earth YES program

WESTBROOK -- As fall has arrived, thousands of leaves have made their on to the yards of many Westbrook residents. Community members were likely surprised to see their clean yards on Wednesday afternoon, thanks to 52 students from Westbrook-Walnut Grove High School who spent almost two hours raking leaves.

Pat Merrick, advisor for Earth YES (Youth Energy Summit) program at W-WG, said this was a community project organized by students in the program. He explained students involved with Earth YES program are trying to make a difference with small projects that benefit the environment as well as the community. Merrick noted that students have been working on recycling and energy-saving projects throughout the year.

Merrick added that students wanted the community to be more involved in their project on this occasion, so they came up with the idea of raking leaves at 10 houses around Westbrook.

Tyler Keithahn, a senior at W-WG who has been involved in the Earth YES program since his sophomore year, said students in the program started planning the project earlier this month.

“Our group wanted to get the community more involved with the projects we do and which better way to do it than right now,” Keithahn said. “All the leaves are falling, so raking seemed to be a good idea.”.

Merrick said he was very surprised to see so many volunteers since it was the first day of fall break.

“I am completely blown away because they are taking their own time off,” Merrick said. “They are really not getting time off school; they are not doing anything other than help.”

Keithahn said he was also very surprised by the number of youths who came out to rake leaves. He added that he was very pleased since volunteers took the initiative to come out and help the community.

“Our main focus was that we didn't want the kids to be forced to do it because this is a volunteer day, so all the people you see here today are people who volunteer to do it on their own time, ”  Keithahn said.

Merrick said he hopes students understand that they can make a difference in their communities and beyond if they are willing to collaborate with each other and have the energy to work hard.

“I think they are learning that one or two people with a good idea and excitement can really make a huge difference,” Merrick said. “It doesn't take going far away; it doesn't take anything else, but the willingness to help.”

Linda Xiong, a W-WG student and member of Earth YES, said she is very happy to see all the volunteers having a good time while helping out the community. She said this community project is portraying a good image of W-WG as well as spreading the word about Earth YES.

“While doing this we are getting Earth YES out and we are representing our school in a good way,” Xiong said. “I would encourage other kids to do it, mainly because is the right thing to do.”

Xiong said members of Earth YES are looking forward to doing more community projects and encourages residents to share project ideas with Earth Yes members.

“If the community has any other ideas on projects for us to do, we are on board -- we would make it happen,” Xiong said.

Merrick said the community is constantly helping the school, and this is a way to show the students’ appreciation.

“So often we look at students, the school is constantly asking for money for trips, so it gives them a chance to see these kids are willing to give back,” Merrick said.

Vera Rachuy, 84, of Westbrook, was very surprised to see students raking the leaves from her front and back yard. She was especially grateful because she is unable to do it herself.

“I think it’s wonderful because I can’t do it,” Rachuy said. “I think people, especially in my age range, appreciate the helping hand in yard work.”

Rachuy said she thinks the communication between the school and the community is a key part of the wellness of the whole town. She added that she hopes students realize there is a great need for hands willing to help others.

“I think they are learning that other people matter, and hopefully they will develop the idea of being able to see a need and get satisfaction out of being helpful,” Rachuy said.

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