OCEAN CITY — Students from local counties braved rain and cold last Friday to participate in their first major service project of the year in Ocean City.
About 60 members of the Southern Eastern Shore Association of Student Councils (SESASC) hit the beach and boards picking up trash and spent time in City Hall afterwards learning about the environment and their impact on it.
Students from the two school systems canvased downtown Ocean City in the SESASC at the Beach for litter and debris and found more than expected for the resort in the off-season. Service Project Coordinator Zainab Mirza, a sophomore at Stephen Decatur High School (SDHS), said that she was impressed with how much SESASC got done considering the rough weather Friday morning.
“We got from the Inlet to 3rd Street and we got the beach, all of the side streets and everything in between that,” she said. “There was a lot of trash.”
More than a dozen bags were filled with discarded clothes, litter, cigarette butts and assorted junk picked up off the sand and the streets. It was a good bonding experience for the 60 students since the weather kept them packed into tight groups, Mirza joked.
The group incorporates Worcester, Somerset and Wicomico counties for a total of about 120 students in both high school and middle school.
Though they meet several times a year at a variety of events, the clean-up in Ocean City was the first big environmental project that Mirza has seen in her four years with SESASC but one that she expects will become a regular outing.
“This is the first time we’ve done something like this … This was kind of a trial year. I see better planning, hopefully better weather,” she said.
This event is Mirza’s pet project, one that she organized because of her environmentalism and desire to put the skills learned through SESASC to use. The best thing about the group, in Mirza’s opinion, is how it is able to bring together students from multiple grade levels and three separate school systems, all of whom she identified as “leaders in their schools.”
“I like being involved so I felt like this was a good way not just to do it with my school but with other schools,” she said. “I like meeting new people. I think it’s fun to meet new people and share your experiences with them and share ideas.”
The group meets four times a year for workshops and once per year for an overnight conference in Ocean City. While SESASC does use teachers as resources and chaperones, the events and activities are entirely driven by students.
“They’re all run by students. We have a board and they’re all run by the board members,” said Mirza. “So you’re learning things not by teachers, which is kind of different for you, so all of these students are telling you.”
SESASC encourages the open exchange of information and ideas between schools. For example, Mirza said that she might organize a book drive at SDHS and tell her friends at SESASC about it. If it’s successful, it might be repeated in Wicomico or Somerset. It’s a uniquely positive experience, especially for students who might otherwise only interact with neighboring schools through sports.
Though the weather and testing schedule kept middle school and Wicomico students from attending SESASC at the Beach, Mirza considers it a big success since about half of the total council was still able to come out. There will likely be similar community improvement events in the near future, not just in Ocean City but all over the lower shore.