Back when I went to college, and my friends and I thought about spring break, it was mainly to figure out where we could go to have the most fun while spending the least amount of our hard-earned money. Going to school in the northeast, Florida was usually our destination of choice. Our two main challenges were to determine whose car could make the drive back and forth without breaking down and finding the cheapest one-bedroom hotel room that could fit six guys!
But a few weeks ago, I participated in an Anacostia River watershed cleanup event that changed my view of spring break forever. The Washington, D.C.-based Earth Conservation Corps (ECC) and some of its local partners hosted more than 250 college students from an organization called Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF). The students spent their spring break driving across the country to do service work in various locations. They clearly had more meaningful challenges in mind than my friends and I did during our college years!
One of their last stops was in the Washington, D.C. area to partner with the ECC and other local watershed organizations to help clean up one of the Anacostia River’s tributaries – the Lower Beaverdam Creek in Cheverly, Maryland. I was fortunate to have a chance to welcome them, along with the mayors of Cheverly and nearby Bladensburg. (I openly admitted that my spring break activities were quite a bit different than theirs!) I also thanked them for their service to the residents of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Then, I worked with them and the Friends of Lower Beaverdam Creek for a few hours to try to make the Anacostia and one of its creeks cleaner.
On that day alone, the enthusiastic STLF members (in their bright orange t-shirts) and other volunteers collected 257 bags of trash, 152 tires, 30 water cooler jugs, and an endless pile of furniture, metal and wood scrap. But this was not a one-time effort for these students – in fact, it was the seventh year in a row that STLF members have worked with the ECC in the Anacostia watershed. More than 3,000 STLF members have taken part in this work over that time period.
These young people have much to be proud of for how they have spent their spring breaks. They will surely have lifelong memories of their experiences…certainly far better memories than mine!
Now it’s time for me (and you!) to make new memories this spring by volunteering for a cleanup event in your part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. There are lots of opportunities coming up over the next few weeks, such as Project Clean Stream and Earth Day activities in communities across the Bay watershed.