Measurable: Roselle Park & The NJ Governor’s Jefferson Awards

This school year there are many things to be proud of and many things to look forward to: The Panthers had an unbelieving season which culminated in a play off game at Met Life Stadium; a new School Superintendent was hired to take over for veteran superintendent Patrick Spagnoletti; contracts were finally ratified and signed between the Board Of Education (BOE) and the Roselle Park Education Association (RPEA) until 2015; and on and on. Achievements by students, teachers, administrators, and Board members were many. Awards and recognitions were well deserved. Some attracted more attention than others but all were measurable in their impact to our community, our home. This story is about a particular group of students – Roselle Park High School’s (RPHS) Ecology Club – which were awarded the New Jersey Governor’s Jefferson Award at the Newark Children’s Museum on June 1, 2013.

The Jefferson Awards were founded in 1972 by Sam Beard, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Senator Robert Taft to honor people who perform outstanding community service. The awards are the official volunteer recognition program of the U.S. Senate and the White House. A select group of New Jersey honorees participate in the National Ceremony each June in Washington, D.C. The New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Awards program is administrated jointly by The Community Foundation of New Jersey, The Star-Ledger/, and The Governor’s Advisory Council on Volunteerism with support from outstanding corporate underwriters.

The focus of the Jefferson Award is to honor individual or group volunteer efforts that achieve measurable community impact and represent outstanding acts of public service without the expectation of recognition or compensation. Recipients demonstrate unique vision, dedication and tenacity of heroic proportion and serve as inspiration for others to respond to the call to action.

The Roselle Park High School Ecology Club was recognized for its recycling program which started as a small grassroots effort at RPHS in 2006. Each year, the recycling effort has expanded to the point where it now includes all schools and administrative offices within the district and the residences within the community. For the calendar year 2012, the high school students diverted 10.4 tons of waste from landfill disposal including three tons of white ledger paper, 1.5 tons of mixed paper, 1.7 tons of cardboard, and 4.2 tons of light iron in the form of washing machines, stoves, dryers, and refrigerators, etc.

One of our teachers, Raymond Bangs, has even been using his own pickup truck to haul all of our recycling to the various vendors. Their hope was to inspire even more community members to participate in this wonderful cause. One of their goals is to procure a diesel van and convert it to run on recycled vegetable oil to further demonstrate their sincere concern for the environment.

Each September, Ecology Club members collect discarded cardboard boxes, cover them with paper, and decorate them. These uniquely designed containers serve as recycling bins which are distributed to every classroom and office for collecting paper. The club also conducts an outreach program in the district’s elementary schools. The younger children attending the after school care program are engaged in creative games, activities, and arts and craft projects all of which are designed by the Ecology Club members and are made out of recycled materials.

One popular game was recycled checkers. Using discarded cardboard, the upper classmen make checker boards with different colored bottle caps serve as the checkers. Other projects included wind chimes and ornaments which the participants took home. Through this effort the Ecology Club was able to deliver the message of the importance of recycling to the parents as well as the children.

Those in attendance that Saturday were Scott Giameo (Ecology Club President), Tiffany Hunter, Michal Kierznowski, Erin Nese, Maggie Nese, Aditya Sirohi, Steeven Solorzano, and Parth Patel. Also in attendance were Ecology Club co-advisors Raymond Bangs, Dennis Dagouni, and Roselle Park Board of Education President Chris Miller.