• Glenn Gale and Gary Chamberlain of American Legion Post 96 show off pamphlets about anti-litter efforts in the region.
    Glenn Gale and Gary Chamberlain of American Legion Post 96 show off pamphlets about anti-litter efforts in the region.

American Legion Post will tell tale of youth anti-litter efforts

   Murphy’s American Legion Post 96 has been invited to write an essay, portraying our Cherokee County school anti-litter effort that will be published by the American Legion in their national "Dispatch" magazine on the topic “Children and Youth”. This hardcopy magazine will be sent out to the American legion Post Commanders throughout the United States in April.
   Murphy Middle School and Martins Creek School submitted their entries to be part of our story and this is their response to our anti-litter questions, What is your school is doing? Why is your school involved? Who benefits from your efforts? Why you want others to join your effort?
   As a member of Murphy, NC, American Legion Post 96, I have the privilege of working with the principals, teachers and students in the Cherokee County School District on reducing litter in our community. Our youth are our future role models and leaders, and they have inspired me through their anti-litter efforts.
   We teach the importance of not littering our schools, community and country as it relates to the image and economy of our community. We engage our students in a year-end, anti-litter contest, where our elementary, middle and high schools compete against each other by responding to seven questions that are worth a total of 165 points. Our contest encourages the students to develop anti-litter posters that are judged and selected for the “North Carolina Litter-Free Coalition” Facebook page.
   A big reason for our success is due to the participation of our regional newspapers, radio stations and television stations. We are greatly appreciative of the Cherokee Scout, Murphy, NC, for they have published numerous anti-litter stories and comments involving our residents and students.
   Our schools have been able to make a difference in our community through their actions and words.

Murphy Middle School

   Vice Principal Keith Payne, of Murphy Middle School offered this explanation, of the four questions, that we presented to all of our Cherokee County principals, as they competed to comment for this story.

   “At Murphy Middle School we are not only dedicated to making our students better classroom learners, but learners outside the classroom. We aim to teach our students about civic responsibilities, taking pride in your community, helping others not for fame but because it is the right thing to do and integrity in all you do. By teaching our students to clean up around the school, then clean up in the community we are teaching them to be ever mindful of their community and the problems that will face them outside the school setting.
Murphy Middle School has started an American the Beautiful Club this year and our first ever FFA charter. These two entities together have cleaned the school on a weekly basis, cleaned up our overgrown flower beds, and picked up after sporting events at our school and at the high school. FFA recently went to the largest park in Cherokee County and picked up litter for two hours.
   The benefits from these efforts are spread throughout the community. First, the students learn civic responsibility. The management of the park does not have to pick up litter so they can focus on larger tasks. Visitors to the park see a clean park and notice that our students are part of the solution and not part of the problem. The community does not have to see litter in the park, but instead start picking up litter in other areas of the park. The wildlife in the park will not ingest litter or get tangled up in the trash protecting their environment. Everyone in Murphy and in surrounding communities benefits from this service.
   We at Murphy Middle School need others to join our efforts. We are just a small part of the community. We need other organizations to help us keep clean. Since we have started, I have noticed many Facebook posts of community members picking up trash. They are not asked to, but I have to believe that efforts have helped spur this campaign against litter. Anti-litter efforts start with one person and if that one person can affect change in 2 more people, and those 2 people affect change in 2 more people, we have eight people. If those 8 people find 2 more people each, that trend continues until everyone will soon understand that to keep America Beautiful isn’t just a dream, but a realized reality.
   America has at its core the ability to come together, work on a problem together, and resolve any issue facing her. That notion has been lost, but this generation's youth will show us all regardless of our differences, America is beautiful and we the people can solve any issue.”

   I would like to thank Vice Principal Mr. Keith Payne, and the students of Murphy Middle School for taking the time to participate in our anti-litter, America the Beautiful Club effort. I would also like to mention that Mr. Payne is a Army veteran.

Martins Creek School

   Principal Paul Wilson of Martins Creek School offered this response to the four questions presented to all Cherokee County principals:

   “Martins Creek School is a public school in Western NC serving grades pre-k through 8th grade. During the 2016-2017 school year, local Veteran and community activist Gary Chamberlain inspired us to educate students, parents, and community members about harmful effects of litter on our environment and economy. During assemblies in the 16-17 school year, continuing into the current school year, we spoke with the student body and staff about how litter affects the impression visitors have of our area and residents, including how these impressions might influence potential businesses and industries. With Mr. Chamberlain’s help, we provided each classroom with anti-litter stickers as visual reminders. The discussions held in each classroom, led by teachers and our counselor generated enthusiasm among students. Students became interested in teaching parents and family members about the importance of picking up litter, and more importantly, the importance of not littering in the first place. At the end of the 2016-2017 school year, our school won the North Carolina Litter Free Coalition Anti-litter Contest.
   On Sept. 23 of this school year, we held a campus beautification day. Parents, PTO members, and students picked up litter on and around campus and planted flowers. On October 18th, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our current campus and re-enacted a walk from our old campus to the current one. Along the way, students and staff from multiple grade levels disposed of litter. We are blessed to live in a scenic area. Keeping it beautiful is an ongoing effort. On January 29th, 2018, Mr. Chamberlain spoke in a faculty meeting and provided anti-litter brochures for every student (205), funded personally by our county commissioners. On Feb. 6, Key Club members (selected from grades 6-8) attended a commissioners’ meeting to thank them for the brochures and show our school’s dedication to the cause. We have other events on the horizon: We plan for Beta Club members to remove old tarp remnants from our ball fields; as school principal, I will appear on station WJUL on February 26th to discuss these efforts; we plan for our SADD but TRU club to visit sporting events and encourage spectators to pick up after themselves and refrain from tobacco use on school grounds; we will partner with the Martins Creek Community Club for roadside cleanup on April 8, July 12, and Oct. 6.
   For Martins Creek School, these efforts are about more than litter. They fit under the umbrella of producing virtuous students, our primary goal. The greatest virtue is humility. Leaving refuse behind in the stands at a game or along the roadside is a concrete example of what it means to be inconsiderate of others. We hope to change the mindsets of adults. Judging by the litter that we collect, some of them are under the influence of alcohol when they discard trash. This means that it may be too late to reach them. However, the most important goal is to train students to be virtuous and act responsibly. Everyone stands to benefit if we are successful, both now and for generations to come. This is a way to help make the world a better place. If more people join our efforts, fundamental change can occur more quickly and thoroughly. We greatly appreciate the American Legion’s consideration of our essay as a means to reach more people and increase civic awareness.”

   I would like to thank Principal Mr. Paul Wilson, and the students of Martins Creek School for taking the time to participate in our anti-litter, America the Beautiful Club effort.
   The writer is the leader of the North Carolina Anti-Litter Coalition.