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Students Pitch In at River Cleanup

Students Pitch In at River Cleanup

A group of NMH students woke up early on Saturday, Sept. 23, to participate in the Source to Sea Cleanup in Greenfield. Organized by the Connecticut River Conservancy and sponsored by local businesses, this community event is now in its 27th year. 

It was just one of many Source to Sea cleanups spanning through the Connecticut River watershed in Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Volunteers in Greenfield elected to participate in groups devoted to cleanup, trash sorting, and group leadership. Participants were dispatched to an impressive 50 sites and tasked with cleaning everything from riverbanks to streambanks, parks, local trails, boat launches, and roadsides.

Though rain was forecast that day, volunteers came out in droves. The Green River Swimming and Recreation area served as a home base. Families, school groups, and individuals grabbed coffee, donuts, buckets, and bags before heading out to their assigned posts. 

The NMH students were posted on a winding roadside near the Eunice Williams Covered Bridge, which spans over a lovely juncture in the river's path. With Kensey Batchelder, NMH’s director of work and service learning, keeping close watch on the rural traffic, they set out with sturdy gloves and boots to comb through the roadside leading to the bridge.

Greenfield’s cleanup was largely focused on the Green River. A tributary of the Deerfield River with headwaters that emanate in Vermont and trickle out in northern Massachusetts, the river stretches 31.5 miles between these two states. Intense flooding last summer caused widespread contamination during part of the summer, and likely swept new debris to its banks.

The NMH group included a few Ecoleaders, a student group that works on sustainability issues at the school and beyond while also encouraging others to become more aware of key environmental issues. Others, like Samantha “Sam” Hiu Yu Zhong ’26, of Hong Kong, was invited by a friend and decided that it would be worthwhile to participate in the effort.

She has come to really enjoy the rural landscape, she said. “It’s really different, but I really love it a lot. I live in Norton, a really far dorm, and I enjoy my walk there every single morning and afternoon. I love to just look at all the green. I am from a big city, but I enjoy both places.” 

Antao “Kitty” Zhang ’24 was one of the Ecoleaders participating that day. Zhang was born in Shanghai but has also lived in Hong Kong and Korea. She became familiar with the Greenfield byways through road biking. “We always would bike up this way,” she said. “And now, I’m picking up trash over here. All these things I couldn’t do back home, I can do now. This wasn’t available, the mountains and everything. I like it.” 

Zhang was inspired to attend the Source to Sea cleanup after seeing a documentary by fellow Ecoleader Maya Beaudrain about the previous year’s cleanup. Beaudrain, of Greenfield, and her dad were there with the NMH crew as well. Thanks to her eco-minded family, Beaudrain said, she has been helping with these kinds of community efforts “since I was old enough to hold a bag.”

The students chatted and listened to music as they wended their way down the cleanup site, wrapping things up a little before lunchtime. Community organizer Michael Pattanvina reported that a whopping 25 tons of trash and debris were collected in the Greenfield cleanup this year. NMH students were an integral part of this successful day, and most said they would like to continue to participate in outreach efforts like the Source to Sea. 

The cleanup effort was one of many community service opportunities that NMH students take part in over the year, from volunteering at local elementary schools to assisting at food pantries in the area.

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