Recycling program part of larger effort to prepare special education students for professional world


Photo illustration by Alyssa Sy.


Maybe you’ve never considered what happens to the plastic bottles and other recyclables you dispose of in your classes each day. But, there are a group of students on campus who help make sure the contents of those blue bins make it where they need to go.

The Recycling Program, a project of McQueen’s special education department, consists of 10 students who make weekly rounds on campus, emptying classroom recycling bins.

The team works in two groups: one responsible for collecting paper; the other responsible for collecting bottles and cans, said Mr. Graham Kirby, who oversees the project. The money collected from the recycling is used to purchase Amazon gift cards which are spent to purchase supplies for the school.

The program gives students a chance to learn a variety of social and 21st Century professional skills to prepare for the future. It is just one of many opportunities outside of the curriculum that encourage students to take on jobs later in life.

Sophomore, A.J. Ortiz, a member of The Recycling Program team, said he liked taking out the recycling in the mornings because he liked helping out teachers and the school.

The students go to different classrooms on different days. The paper team can be seen going to the 200 hall, front office, 400 and 500 halls on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the plastics team goes to the 100 hall and mobiles. The teams alternate so the students aren’t doing the same classrooms every week. Kirby said rotating the schedule gives students a chance to know the whole campus better.

This program is only one of many that is teaching students with disabilities new ways to learn skills in order to benefit their future, Kirby said.

“The recycling program had started before I got here 10 years ago,” he said. “We do it Tuesdays and Thursdays obviously to help out the school and the environment, but what’s really important about it is, it teaches our kids job skills.”

Kirby also said the program helps students learn soft skills such as: communication, working as a team and responsibility – skills that students often take for granted. Programs such as recycling help them work together as a team and take on responsibilities – all skills that are transferable to any job they will take on in the future.

Outside of the recycling program, participating students have the opportunity for job training twice a week off campus. Such job training includes working at the northwest library where they help organize the library’s periodical section.

There is also a group of kids that work on Tuesdays at Round Table Pizza. They learn to bus tables and help out with the restaurant’s day-to-day needs.

“It’s a great program and we appreciate all the teachers support on it,” Kirby said.


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