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University of California: Freshman Essay - Prompt #7 (2016)
Prompt: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
My high school had become a very unpleasant place to be. This was not because of the teachers or students, or even the building. This was because of a major problem with littering. Trash was strewn throughout the halls of our school on a daily basis. Trash was also thrown haphazardly on the grounds of our school including our sports fields and parking lots. When it became windy, large piles of trash would be thrown up against the walls of our school. Our school's culture had become accepting of a high level of garbage. It was time for a change, so I initiated an anti-littering campaign. Along with 5 other students, I embarked on a project to reverse this disturbing trend.
First, we held a school-wide "cleanup" event. We invited all students, teachers and family members. We had a live band and food at the event, and everyone was put to work. We assigned volunteers to clean up specific parts of our school. The event took all day on a Saturday and resulted in a truly transformed setting. That week, when school began on Monday, it was as if we had entered a brand new school. Our clean-up event had restored a sense of pride and responsibility. We decided to make it a monthly event. We all reinforced the change in culture by placing large posters reminding everyone to take care. We even held a car wash to raise cash to purchase 20 new large garbage bins to place strategically around our school.
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This type of community organizing can be applied to almost any institutional problem. What it takes is a small group of dedicated individuals. This results in a "trickle down" effect. Everyone can be influenced by a small group if the group is passionate and devoted enough to the cause. Our cause was to beautify our campus to inspire a sense of community and pride. Beautifying work areas, whether schools or business plazas, is important for the mental and physical health of people who use the facility. Life is messy, and organized clean-ups are a way to create community while solving a very common problem.