Clague Middle School student starts her second lunchtime recycling project

Story and photo by Jo Mathis
AAPS District News Editor

Katherine Hu has better things to do at recess than stand around chitchatting with her friends.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. She’d just rather help save the earth.

So every day after lunch, Katherine can be found in the Clague Middle School cafeteria, ready to help her fellow students separate recyclables from trash.

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Katherine Hu, 11, has now organized two school recycling programs.

“I feel proud because a lot of people do community service because they have to do community service,” said Katherine, 11. “I like doing this because it makes me feel I’m doing something for the earth. The earth has helped me in so many ways. It’s given me life, and it’s given all of us life. But humans are very wasteful and we just throw away our waste without thinking about it. So this makes me think I’m doing something back for the earth.”

As a fifth grade at King Elementary last year, Katherine saw teacher Neha Shah separating recyclables.

“That had an impact on me to do something more for the environment,” said Katherine. “So with the help of Miss Shah and some of my friends, I started STAND. Stand stands for “So There’s A New Day” and we made posters and put them up around the school, and we made announcements and went to all the classrooms and tried to encourage recycling and composting, too.”

Soon, Katherine had created an Excel spreadsheet that tracked the program’s progress, including the weight of the compost and the recycables.

“And we did pretty well because we had more compost and recycling than we had trash,” she said. “So it really helped.”

Within days after she became a sixth grader at Clague Middle School in September, Katherine knew she had to start something similar there. So she explained to Principal Che Carter that the recycling bins in the cafeteria were off to the side, and not well used.

“They were throwing away all their recyclable items, and that got me motivated,” she said. “I see all this waste that we produce, and if we can produce this waste from going into the earth, then we should do something about it.”

So with Carter’s enthusiastic OK, she and some friends moved the recycling bins to the center of the room, and she created a lunchtime schedule for volunteers.  The 30 STAND members also educate the other students of the importance of not dumping recyclables in the trash in the first place.

Katherine exemplifies Clague’s motto: `Live in service to our community.”

“So this was a natural progression for our incoming sixth grade cohort,” said Principal Carter, who calls Clague students “game changers.”

He said he appreciates the King Elementary team for inspiring and supporting the vision of students such as Katherine.

“When you witness the level of care and collaboration in our students,” he said, “it serves as a great indicator that our future will be left in able hands.”


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  1. My husband and I are very impressed about your school’s effort to help Katherine fulfill her goal to be an environmental sensitive child in her everyday life.
    I understand how much the school has to put in to get this program moving.
    Thank you very much.
    Education goes beyond classroom and books.
    Your school is setting a very good example for the whole nation


    Frances Hu

  2. Nice job, Katherine. I’m a 6th grade science teacher at Forsythe and many years ago I helped start Recycle Ann Arbor, the nonprofit that collects the recyclables you are separating. You are definitely in the spirit of the pioneers of RAA! My classes and I were just discussing the waste that takes place at lunch at Forsythe. We need for someone to start a program like yours. With your permission, I will share your story at Forsythe and see if anyone steps up.

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