Middle school students volunteering to clean up Kings Beach. | SierraSun.com

Middle school students volunteering to clean up Kings Beach.

Julie Brown
Sierra Sun

A handful of North Tahoe Middle School students meandered down Brook Avenue Wednesday morning, trash bags in hand.

The middle school students scoured the streets for bits of paper, discarded bottles or a random hidden treasure. They are taking the time to clean up their streets and show pride in their community.

The group, who picks up trash on a different street in Kings Beach’s grid each week, is student-run. Ashlee Vikse, an eighth-grader at North Tahoe Middle School, calls and organizes the kids each week. For Vikse, the weekly two hours will go towards her mandatory 40 hours of community service required for all eighth graders at North Tahoe Middle.

Community service is an important aspect of education that is not necessarily taught in the classroom, said Kelly Swarberg-Ogilvy, a physical education teacher at North Tahoe Middle who supervises the group of students each week.

“[The students are] trying out different jobs,” Swarberg-Ogilvy said. “I just think it’s really important for the kids to get a different view [on life]. [Community service] is just one of those things where they can feel good about themselves.”

Each week, the students collect several trash bags full of discarded junk, that otherwise would be polluting the streets. The students also paint over graffiti. They focus their time on the lower part of the Kings Beach grid.

“[Cleaning the community] teaches us a lot because we know how to take care of places where we live and not trash it ourselves,” said Ruthi Ibarra, a 12-year-old Kings Beach resident.

“I feel good because [the streets] look prettier,” said student Maritza Estrada. “If people see us around, they’ll probably do the same thing.”

And, perhaps most importantly, the kids are having a good time. The weekly gathering helps introduce younger students who will enter the middle school this fall to older students.

“You get to help the community, and you get to hang out with your friends,” said Danielle Vickse, an 11-year-old student who will start her first year in Middle School this Fall.

The North Tahoe Business Association donated their left-over cleaning supplies from their annual clean-up day to the group, and the North Tahoe Public Utility District picks up the student’s full trash bags each week.