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Students Practice Citizenship As They Beautify A Spot Of San Antonio

Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
Students from Sam Rayburn Middle School helped clean up an empty field near their school as part of a city cleanup program.

You’ve heard of the state’s anti litter campaign called Adopt-A-Highway. San Antonio now has its own campaign, called Adopt-A-Spot.

“All right, I want you to separate into groups of four," shouted teacher Rene Rico. "I’m gonna give each group a bag and I’m going to give you an area.”

Rico and students from his eighth grade Communications Applications class worked together to pick up trash in an empty field across the street from Sam Rayburn Middle School on the Southwest Side.

The class was just one of 60 groups or organizations across the city that have signed up for the city’s Adopt-A-Spot program to remove trash from streets and drainage areas, according to city officials.

Their efforts keep trash out of waterways -- the program’s ultimate goal.

Rico said volunteering his classes for the program have made the students more responsible parts their society and better communicators, which is part of his course curriculum.

Rico said his eighth graders were a little reluctant at first to put down their smartphones and leave their air conditioned classroom to pick up trash.

“Of course, the initial reaction was, ‘why am I picking up trash, right? I don’t even do that home.’" he said. "But once we were out there and, you know, the kind of two days before when I was reminding them ... this is what we are doing ... they warmed to it.”

Texas Public Radio joined the students on their trash pickup mission. They wore day glow safety jackets and carried long mechanical grabbers to pick up anything they saw.

Credit Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio

Students Angel Sanchez and Ariana Reyes later described what they found.

“Well, some of the kind things we find out here are large ... amounts of trash ... some alcohol bottles, and, you know, it’s just terrible,” Angel said.

“We found a shower head,” Ariana said.

Students Asia Patterson and Micke Cardenas said it felt good to do something good for the environment. “It makes feel good because I like helping our community,” Asia said.

“I feel like fantastic just making a better place for someone else and for future generations,” Micke added.

The city’s Transportation and Capital Improvements Department, or TCI, oversees the Adopt-A-Spot program.

Nefi Garza, TCI's assistant director, said it’s easy for groups or organizations to join Adopt-A-Spot.

“We provide them with ... safety vests,” he said. “We provide them with bags. We provide them with information ... we are even able to give them shirts and things like that, and we even put up a sign. If you adopt a spot, we’ll put up a sign saying, 'hey, this area adopted.'”

City officials said private properties and public properties managed by the Texas Department of Transportation are ineligible for adoption. They also said groups should find a spot where there is a real need for a trash cleanup and to make sure it’s safe to access.

To learn more about Adopt-A-Spot, go to sanantonio.gov and type Adopt-A-Spot in the search box.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.