NHS and ICUP collaborate for cleanup

Nate Porterfield loads the last few bags of trash from Sunday’s cleanup. — Courtesy Max Potter

By Marin Gillis, Hardy Eville, and Camden Napior

Over 70 participants collected 39 bags of trash at 6 different locations this past Sunday as part of a large-scale cleanup project: a collaboration between the National Honor Society (NHS) and Island Clean Up Project (ICUP).

Students picking up trash along Edgartown-West Tisbury road were greeted with the constant honking of car horns. In other areas, students were thanked by passersby. Senior and NHS group leader Bella Thorpe said, “It was nice to have the support from people driving by and to see other people in a safe way while doing something good for the planet.”

Junior Finn Lewis went to East Chop to participate in the island wide clean up. He was enthusiastic when he heard about teaming up with ICUP for the beach clean up as he spends many hours on the beach surfing. “We live on a very beautiful island and it’s important we keep it like that,” said Finn. “In the long term I hope this project can help be a movement to help raise awareness in other communities about keeping our earth clean.”

For groups like Best Buddies, a club designed to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities form lasting friendships with their peers, this event was an important way to get involved with the school community and participate in events and activities that are not focused on disabilities. Best Buddies advisor and school librarian Kevin McGrath felt that the cleanup day was fun and easy for anyone to take part in. “It’s a good cause and there’s a lot of value in being a part of that,” Mr. McGrath said. “Feeling like you’re contributing and being included is amazing.”

With the ever-present challenges of the pandemic, NHS knew their traditional projects and service events were unlikely to happen this year. Leaders of the NHS pitched the idea to work with ICUP co-founders seniors Max Potter and Willa Welch.

“We loved the idea of collaborating with NHS,” Willa said. “We had the idea of doing a big cleanup. We’ve always just done one spot because we don’t usually have that many people or a set group like the National Honor Society has. With that group we could make something really big and exciting.”

Senior and NHS co-president Pete Gillis said, “It is a great safe way for students to meet and stay safely distanced to help our community.”

NHS advisor Dr. Caroline Fyler, said “They are really stepping up to the challenges that we are facing this year. I love my time with this group of students. We all just love where we live, and there is a lot of satisfaction that comes out of being able to do something for the island. It’s a real feel good project.”

Students were excited for the opportunity to be outside helping the planet. “I’ve always cared about the environment,” said Willa Welch. “In one year we’ve collected so much litter, I think over 1,000 lbs now, which seems insane.”

“It’s an important project right now because it is a socially-distanced event and there’s a lot to be said about gathering outside and doing something that feels good, and getting to see your friends,” said Dr. Fyler. “We all are feeling a little isolated and a little lonely right now, so it is a really nice MVRHS community building event.”