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PKE students keeping it clean

By Greg Bird

As McCreary County continues to struggle with a growing garbage problem, a group of Pine Knot Elementary Fifth Graders have taken on a momentous challenge to help clean up the roadside trash that seems so prevalent these days.
The #3bagchallenge is a movement started by PKE Social Studies teacher Tara Tucker as part of lessons about civic responsibility. As the students were learning about volunteering to help others, the idea blossomed in to a call to action with Tucker challenging her students to go out in to the community and pick up at least three bags of garbage. The response has been nothing short of overwhelming. Facebook and other social media sites have been bombarded with photos of local students making an effort to clean up the county, and encouraging others to do so as well – all using the #3bagchallenge tag.
“It’s awesome,” Tucker said. “They have taken the challenge and ran with it for sure.”
One student took the challenge to heart, picking up 58 bags over two days with a friend and her mother. Fifth grader Lillian Marnhout collected the trash in her Smithtown neighborhood last week as her way of contributing to the cause. Lillian, a Girl Scout who is no stranger to public service, said she was inspired to pick up litter to help make her neighborhood look better. She also encourages everyone to make an effort and pitch in “because it is good for the environment.”
While Marnhout may have set the bar high, her fellow students have certainly taken on the challenge and are giving their best efforts.
Tucker said another student who picked up bags of trash in his neighborhood said he couldn’t believe the difference in how it looked afterwards.
Tucker said more than 118 bags of trash have already been picked up through Monday, and the challenge is less than halfway over.
“It’s phenomenal,” Tucker added. “It is helping us all out. My hope is this feeling of pride in our county grows, and if that keeps them from throwing trash out of a car window for the rest of their lives we will all be better off for it.”
Partnering with PRIDE, who has provided materials such as reflective vests for safety and garbage bags, the efforts are making a huge impact in cleaning up the county.
Tammy Nazario, President and CEO of Eastern Kentucky PRIDE, praised the efforts of Tucker and her students.
“Ms. Tucker is showing exemplary leadership in this challenge,” Nazario said. “She saw a great opportunity to do something positive using the social media outlets and she embraced it. The lessons these students are learning will stay with them for a lifetime and when the students do something, the adults notice. It’s been great seeing the community embrace her efforts and assist in growing them. We thank Ms. Tucker for her leadership, the McCreary County Fiscal Court for their work in disposing of all the trash collected and especially the students for all their hard work.”
All the students who participate in the challenge will be treated to a special pizza party at the end of the month to reward their hard efforts.
Tucker said it is a bittersweet lesson for her students to learn. The fact that they can get a sense of pride in making their home county look better is contrasted with the need to do so in the first place.
“I hate that we have to do it,” Tucker said. “It is great that they are learning how to help, but it is also sad that something like this has to be done to make progress.”
Tucker hopes the momentum provided by her determined students will grow in to something bigger for the county.

In the meantime she hopes others will be inspired and join the #3bagchallenge.

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