Simple acts improve campuses

Ascension Catholic High eighth-grader Charlie Gianelloni spotted a piece of paper under a bench, picked it up and tossed it through a basketball goal atop a purple-and-gold barrel.

It took just seconds to complete the task, but organizers of the school’s new anti-litter campaign say the simple acts of picking up litter are making a difference in the appearance of Ascension Catholic Diocesan Regional School’s two campuses.

The basketball goals entice the students to dunk the litter, said organizer Dee Lemann, a longtime physical education teacher.

Lemann got the idea for the litter awareness program during an out-of-state trip. She saw that students in Missouri competed to win the cleanest campus title.

With the help of C.F. Industries and a donation in the memory of longtime school supporter Charlie Doescher, Lemann and staffers installed four of the specially-decorated barrels at the school’s primary and high school campuses.

Lemann knew that simply installing the barrels wouldn’t be enough to get students to pick up after others.

She decided to make her anti-litter campaign fun and competitive.

She and newly hired physical education teacher Chris Schexnayder joined forces with the schools’ administration to create a clean campus contest.

First, Lemann and Schexnayder taught an anti-litter lesson in physical education class.

“They learn how important every little person is in keeping our state litter-free,” Lemann said. “Cleaning up our community, our state, starts with small children. They are the key.”

After those lessons, the barrels were rolled out and the schoolwide anti-litter contest began.

From time to time, a team of judges from the high school walk around the two campuses performing inspections.

The cleanest campus each month wins a free dress-down day, when students don’t have to wear their school uniforms.

At the end of the year-long contest, students from the cleanest campus win a sponsored field trip to a recycling plant, pizza and a day off from school. The grand prize is being paid for by an Ascension Parish anti-litter grant, she said.

“The contest is just a reminder to pick up litter,” Schexnayder said.

The goal is for the students to never litter in the first place.

High school students in an environmental science class are working on a new recycling project for the school, she said.

Lemann has talked to other schools about taking part in the campaign.

“It’s simple, but it works,” Lemann said.