Spring is the perfect time for cleaning up after all of winter’s accumulation, and from April 27 to May 2, the youth from HoWL, a local outdoor education organization, plan to do just that in the streets and parks of Homer.
Next week is Cleanup Week for the kids from HoWL’s DiRtBaG program. DiRtBaG stands for “Discount Rates to Boys and Girls” and is HoWL’s financial aid program for youth who would like to participate in their outdoor education excursions. The term “dirtbag” also is a rock climbing term that describes someone willing to sleep in the dirt at the base of a wall in order to be up early and make the epic climb.
In reference to their financial aid program, HoWL uses it to affectionately celebrate those youth who pursue their passion with hard work.
During Cleanup Week, every youth participating sets a goal for how much trash he or she would like to collect, and then goes out to members of the community to collect cash pledges that correspond with that goal. The scholarship money raised during Cleanup Week allows the youth to participate in a variety of HoWL programs including day trips and multi-day outdoor adventures.
Emma Longcope is the DiRtBaG intern at HoWL and is coordinating the Cleanup Week.
“I’m really excited about helping out with this because it’s a unique way that the students get to enable their own wilderness adventures by making the area around them an even more beautiful place to live,” says Longcope.
With wilderness excursions as their incentive, the kids participating in the DiRtBaG program work hard during Cleanup Week. Last year, the 65 kids participating in the program collected 705 bags of trash and 142 bags of recyclables from over 26 miles of road and trails. Last year, with scholarships awarded to the youth based on their collected pledges and their efforts during Cleanup Week, HoWL was able to award $18,000 in financial aid.
Cleanup Week plays nicely into HoWL’s mission of building young leaders through outdoor curriculum.
“By participating (in Cleanup Week), they’re instilled with a sense of service to their community and earning reward through hard work,” says Libby Bushell, HoWL programs director.
Longcope agrees, adding, “Kids get to increase their … self confidence in a way that’s so fun and appropriate to their place.”
The DiRtBaG Cleanup Week coincides with the Homer Chamber of Commerce’s Cleanup Day, which is May 2. Starting now, members of the public can pick up large yellow trash bags at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, Homer High School, Fritz Creek General Store, Safeway and Save-U-More to use to participate in cleaning up Homer.
Members of the DiRtBaG program use these yellow bags and end their Cleanup Week on May 2 at the Homer Chamber of Commerce’s headquarters to deposit their trash.
In addition to Cleanup Week, youth participating in the DiRtBaG program can also earn scholarship awards by participating in other community service excursions sponsored by HoWL. These excursions are outdoor volunteer projects that help various organizations throughout the community.
For Longcope, it’s important to support these kinds of scholarship programs so that all kids can have access to outdoor education.
“Outdoor education in general is so important for kids to take ownership of their experiences. Self-growth and leadership are encouraged in the outdoors in ways that they just aren’t otherwise,” says Longcope.
To learn more about the DiRtBaG Cleanup Week, please visit HoWL’s website at www.howlalaska.org.
Trash drop-off on May 2 is from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the chamber.
Aryn Young is a freelance writer for the Homer News.