Juniors Austin Marquart and Derek Oughton Pick Up Recycling Around the Building


Credit to Addy Bradbury

During seventh hour, Marquart and Oughton empty their last trashcan into the recycling bin under supervision of paraprofessional Scott Auchly. During their time spent recycling, Auchly coaches Marquart and Oughton on where to put plastic bottles and what classrooms have the fullest blue bins.

By Heeral Patel, North Star Co-EIC

It’s the last class of the day in room 27 in Juli Smith’s work experience class. As students throughout the school settle down into their seats, two of Smith’s juniors prepare to set out into the halls with paraprofessional Scott Auchly to collect the school’s paper recycling. Some days they finish a single floor, on others, they finish two. If they don’t get everywhere, they’ll pick up where they left off the next day.

“They’re generally excited and ready to see people,” Auchly said. “It’s seeing people [that they look forward to].”

They have a system set. They may come into the room to pick up the paper, but that’s only if it doesn’t disrupt the lesson. Typically, junior Austin Marquart takes the contents out of the blue bins that teachers have left outside their room and dumps it into their own larger bin, while his laid back partner and fellow junior, Derek Oughton holds the lid open for him. Any plastic bottles thrown in with the paper are picked out by hand before they move on to the next teacher.

“Most of the teachers are always happy to see them and always talk to them,” Auchly said. “[Teachers] ask them how their day is going and what they’re doing, and they are usually pretty good at responding with what we’re doing and how we’re doing.”

It’s all a part of their work experience class. Students in the class have ‘post-secondary goals’ for what they want to do after high school. The program then prepares students for the job they will hold in the future. The paper collected is weighed and, based on that weight, FHN receives funds for the program. They help out the school in different ways such as making deliveries from the office, working in the mail room and baking DECA’s cookies.

“These jobs don’t just teach the actual skill of doing the job to work on what we call soft skills,” Smith said. “Soft skills are making eye contact, saying ‘Hi’, going to knock on the door before going into a classroom. Just those basic things that a lot of these kids take for granted that we already know to do that we have to stop and teach our students to do those things.”

Their work requires students to use these skills. And the practice pays off. In two years of working with the recycling, Marquart has gone from being out for about 10 minutes at a time to persevering through the full 30. Even during class, the halls are busy with principals and staff. People stop to talk. It’s exciting, and it makes a mark on the boys’ day.

And in their memories.

The teachers and staff of the school are friendly —and in Marquart’s words, “sassy.” Hall monitor Jesse Stewart has a Hump Day shirt that he wears every week for Oughton. He gives them a “What’s up” when they all run into each other in the hall. Oughton enjoys seeing Associate Principal Katie Greer and Physical Education teacher Eric Eubank when they make their rounds. Marquart favorite teacher to see is Industrial Technology teacher Brian Stemmerman.

“[Stemmerman] jokes with us and is super nice and says thank you,” Marquart says. “It makes my day [when teachers say thank you.]”

When they start nearing the end of their time, Marquart and Oughton head outside with Auchly to dump their collection into the recycling bins outside the bus stairs, before going back to room 27 to prepare to head home. Recycling is hard work, but the boys both enjoy it.

“I think the biggest thing is that visibility,” Smith said. “[Other kids] seeing students learn differently being out in the building, doing things that typical teenage, high school peers do. They socialize, they’re in the hallways, they’re doing a job, they’re learning.”