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News by students, for students of Millennium Brooklyn High School in Brooklyn, NY

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The Phoenix

Park Life

Millennium’s Environmental Club Leads the Charge on a Volunteer Clean-up Effort

What would motivate over 60 teenagers to gather on a chilly afternoon in Prospect Park to lug bags of trash? 

When the COVID pandemic hit, Millennium students who were stuck at home weren’t required to perform community service. After almost three years of the school not requiring volunteer hours for graduation, the reinstitution of the mandatory service policy came as a shock to many at MBHS. (As a junior, I’m speaking from personal experience.) Many students struggled to identify organizations that they would like to spend time dedicating or committing to (an experience I shared). So when the Environmental Club decided to host its first school-wide park cleanup in November, students searching for community service opportunities signed up to participate in droves. The event provided a chance for students to make a positive impact on the park so close to the John Jay campus.

Students gather by the Litchfield Villa to volunteer for the park cleanup. (Olive Ephross)

On November 1, 2022 student volunteers gathered together outside the school building on 5th street. More than 60 students had signed up to volunteer. Though the goal of the event was to offer students an opportunity to serve their community by benefiting the local environment, it also brought a substantial segment of the school community together.

Due to the sheer number of volunteers, students were broken into groups with supervisors, teachers like Ms. Joslin and Ms. Sulthana. Groups were assigned to pick up trash near the Picnic House and the Bandshell and were given garbage bags and gloves to accomplish the task.

“It was amazing to see so many of my classmates volunteering their time to clean up Prospect Park”, said Olive Ephross, the student leader of the Environmental club. 

The volunteers found and disposed of a range of items, the majority being plastics, bits of balloon, bottle caps, tissue papers, cigarette butts and sometimes even metal. “I was expecting to find boots, towels and certain [left-behind] items but I did not expect to find a huge amount of plastics like forks [and] straws,” a 10th grade volunteer remarked.

“I have been here before but I have never realized the amount of trash there is in Prospect Park,” said Phoebe, another volunteer. “While doing this, I had to look intently [but] I found a lot.”

Students collect garbage.

“It was very well organized and fun”, noted Ezra Holzman, a junior and a member of the Environmental Club. 

In a post-cleanup debrief, the group members agreed that they should invest in rakes and other supplies for future park beautification endeavors.

Ephross, reflecting on the success of the day, noted that she would love to host more clean-ups in the future. “[I want to] find more ways to engage the community in environmental activism”. She is also considering holding a longer event in order to make a much more positive impact. 

These are the many prospects (no 

pun intended) volunteering can bring, including making new friends and connections.


Why does it matter?

Prospect park is a public green space with 526 acres. Its main attractions are the zoo, wetlands, trees and the many events, like concerts, that partake there. It is also a great place for birding, where different species of birds can be spotted throughout the year, especially during the migration seasons. These can include gray catbird, ovenbird (pretty cool names) and many more. It may not be known at first, but it includes one of the last remaining forests and the only lake in Brooklyn. Since it is a public park, it is often subjected to litter whenever parties are hosted or when vandalism occurs. This problem is often tackled by hundreds of volunteers, but even so, trash can still be found throughout the park. 


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