Dunkirk High School Seniors devoted some of their precious end of the year time Thursday at the 11th annual senior sweep.
Stacy Szukala, Fourth Ward councilwoman, championed the cause as the Senior Sweep Coordinator for the second year. But this year she said there were more difficulties.
"I just barely met the $1,100 needed to fund the event," she said. "After a few donations fell through, some large private donors really helped out."
OBSERVER Photo by Mark Belcher
From left, Amanda Reed, Erin Larson, Sam Saye, Dylan Carlson, an unidentified male, Kat Carr and Helen Padua stood proudly by some of the trash they pulled in from the beaches. The group claimed to pull in the most interesting trash, from deer carcasses, fish, tires and more.
She said the donors wanted to remain anonymous, as they just wanted to make sure the Senior Sweep would take place as usual.
"I really want to thank them," she said. "They know who they are."
Szukala said a host of people other than donors come together to make the event happen. She said the Dunkirk Citizens' Advisory Committee, Police Chief David Ortolano, School Resource Officer Denice Zentz, Dunkirk Parks Department and the Dunkirk Street Department all played integral roles.
But despite all outside help, she said it is the students that really make it all possible.
"These kids are getting up on a day they really didn't have to, so I can't thank them enough," she said. "At a time when their lives are so busy, just taking a couple hours out for us is a big thing."
Roughly 86 students showed up out of 100 signed up for the event, she said. The number is down only slightly from 90 participants last year.
Szukala said she is pleased with the turnout, but she always hopes for bigger and better things as the years progress.
"I think we could do a lot more if we had more kids turn out," she said. "I think some local businesses would enjoy some help with the beautification of downtown Dunkirk."
She said if the businesses don't do well, the community can't do well, and that's why she always pushes for more student involvement.
Mayor Anthony J. Dolce said he loves to see any community pride, and he is very appreciative.
"I thank the seniors of Dunkirk High School for displaying community pride in this worthy project," he said. "Best of luck in all your future endeavors."
The students canvased much of the city, and they covered the city's parks schools and beaches.
Dunkirk Police Chief David Ortolano said the students did a great job, and they filled a large amount of extra large trash bags.
"They got everything from tires to shopping carts," he said. "I think it's a positive sign that they care," he added.
One group of students, including Kat Carr, Amanda Reed, Sam Saye, Adrianna Borrero, Dylan Carlson, Erin Larson, Krystal Lebron and Helen Padua, were sent to the area around Point Gratiot.
The group, which included the class valedictorian and salutatorian, said they found the most interesting things of all the groups combined.
"I had to pick up the rotting ends of a dead deer," Saye, the class valedictorian said. "We literally grabbed two sticks to stick it in the bag while my friends bravely held it open."
Kat Carr, the salutatorian, said her small team which broke off to the beach and found a raft, cleaned the trash out around it, and had a rafting adventure.
The team laughed together while telling their stories, but they said it isn't fun to see their community in the state it is in.
"I think it's really amazing that people let the beach get so disgusting, and then they expect it to be clean," Saye said.
They said they are proud of their community, and they like to give back to it. Larson said she hopes it inspires people to keep the area in better shape so it isn't always in need of cleaning.
"We can set an example for how to take care of the beach right," she said. "Then hopefully others will follow."
The group was a tight knit group of friends, so they had fun, but they said it isn't as hard or boring as some may think when you work in teams.
"As friends, we are always doing something for community service," Carr said. "It's a good way to give back to the town but still have fun."
Szukala said she also has fun with the event, and she hopes the community enjoys it. She said she only hears positive things, but she hopes the students get the recognition they deserve.
"A lot of times our students are given a negative reputation for bad things that happened along the way," she said. "They should be given credit for being out there today, because there are a lot of great adults. It is in no way all negative."
When Szukala looked at the amount of trash harvested from the city, she agreed with the group of seniors who tackled the beach area.
"If everybody did their part to keep the city clean, it would be a lot better off," she added.