Colusa students building tradition of community service

Colusa Unified School District students are setting out to do big things in a small community.

A small group of Egling Middle School students, led by seventh grade Language Arts teacher Kimberly Turner, took their first step last Thursday toward developing an annual community-wide service project that district officials hope will grow in the future.

“It’s critically important that we instill a sense of community pride and responsibility with our students at Colusa Unified School District,” said Trustee Melissa Yerxa Ortiz. “A community-wide service day would act as a visual representation of student efforts to give back to a community that supports their many interests, clubs, sports, musical aspirations, etc.”

The May 10 community service project had students cleaning up the State Park and levee area in Colusa. They started at the Rotary stairs at the end of Fifth Street and worked their way to the old boat ramp inside the park.

In addition to the trash that was picked up, the students plucked two sharp fish hooks from the sand at the small beach behind the water towers, and removed several hundred pieces of broken glass from the beach and camping areas.

Ortiz said her goal, inspired by Texas A&M University’s student-run service project called “The Big Event,” is to see all Colusa Unified students participate in a one-day community-wide project every spring.

Ortiz and her husband, Antonio, attended Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, where “The Big Event” has become the largest one-day, student-run service project in the nation.
“Through this and many other efforts, (Texas A&M students) have created a powerful service-oriented culture that reminds me so much of the way this community thrives,” Ortiz said.

While last week’s cleanup day was a “baby step,” in that direction, Ortiz said the project was something Colusa Unified students could build upon.

“I envision students doing things like painting and repairing park benches, cleaning out gutters for elderly citizens, picking up trash, and any number of other small but important tasks,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said her vision is to see student-run community service grow, not just in Colusa, but across the nation.

“It’s a healthy, helpful way for our students to interface with their community, and I look forward to seeing this idea come to fruition,” she said. ■