There are many things a teenager may want to do after school on a Friday afternoon, but raking leaves and picking up trash likely isn’t very high on that list. However, when classes let out Friday at Denison High School, more than 130 students and a dozen coaches arrived in downtown Denison by the busload to do just that.
For the fifth year in a row, the DHS athletic department and student athletes traded in basketballs and footballs for rakes and shovels for an afternoon of service and community cleanup in downtown.
“This is a great way for them to give back and fulfill a need we have by taking care of trash and weeds downtown,” Main Street Director Donna Dow said.
In previous years, the city and school would partner early in spring for work over the weekend. However, events and festivals in downtown on Saturday forced the group to work Friday afternoon instead, she said.
The groups spread out from Heritage Park and covered much of downtown Denison. Dow said many of the leaves that fell during winter still needed to be cleaned up. Beyond just tidying the streets and sidewalks, Dow said she hoped that the work could serve as a lesson about littering for the students.
Denison High School Athletic Director Chad Rogers said the idea for the event came before his time with the school, but he immediately recognized the benefits to not only his athletes but also the community.
“It was a great idea and one I’ve never heard of that I wanted to continue,” he said.
Rogers said the cleanup is a good example of what community service is like for the students. He said there was no benefit to the students who showed up, and no punishment for those who did not attend.
“They are getting nothing from it,” he said. “They aren’t getting out of practice, they are just giving back because the community has given so much.”
High School junior Kentrell Mathenia said he likely would have been at home playing video games if he wasn’t volunteering Friday. Despite this, he didn’t complain because he said this was a good way to show his gratitude to those who support him and his teammates.
“We always get new stuff at the high school each year, so it feels good to be giving back,” he said.
Earlier in the day, city employees also worked to clean up downtown during their lunch break, Dow said, noting that there are talks to make this a regular event for city staff.
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By Michael Hutchins