Dowagiac student creates recycling program at high school

Published 11:55 am Friday, February 5, 2016

In his first year at Dowagiac Union High School, junior Michael Nuyen wasted little time in making an impact within hallways of his new school.

Prior to the end of the first semester last month, Nuyen coordinated the creation of a new paper recycling program at the high school, working with the custodial staff and area recycling company Padnos to help classrooms become a little more environmentally friendly. Using boxes placed inside each classroom, students and teachers throughout the building can now dispose of used paper materials, which are taken to the local recycling company for future reuse.

Nuyen devised the idea as part of an assignment for school’s Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates program, which the junior has been enrolled in since the beginning of the year. The student saw the project as a chance to make a positive change in an area that the school was lacking in — recycling.

“I realized the school threw away a lot of paper, and it kind of irritated me,” Nuyen said.

With the support of JFMG instructor Nathan Davies, Nuyen got in touch with the school staff and with representatives with Padnos, laying out his idea to bring a recycling program to the local school. Impressed with his level of planning and research, both entities agreed to the idea, getting the ball rolling within just a few weeks, Nuyen said.

“A lot of teachers are happy about it,” he said.

With the program now in place, Nuyen and other volunteers with the JFMG class collect materials for recycling once a week from high school classrooms, taking it to larger container in the school maintenance area. Once full, the student contacts Padnos crews to come out to the school to take the collected paper back to their facilities.

A transplant from Marcellus High School, Nuyen has gotten heavily involved with the JFMG, which launched at the beginning of the high school. The school-to-career class offers students the opportunity to learn job and leadership skills through hands-on activities and community service projects. Since the beginning of the year, students enrolled in the program have visited several places, including Whirlpool facilities in St. Joseph and the state capital in Lansing, Nuyen said.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “You get to learn a lot of things you normally wouldn’t get a chance to in the classroom.”

The junior has taken the lessons he’s learned so far and applied them to the creation of the recycling program, something he never would have imagined of undertaking at the beginning of the year, he said.

“As a new student, I didn’t expect to get that involved that quickly,” he said. “A lot of teachers now know who I am through that.”

Nuyen hopes to keep the program alive after he graduates, perhaps leaving it in the hands of students enrolled in future JFMG classes, he said.

He also hopes that his program serves an example of what can happens when students decide to pursue their desire to improve the world around them, he said.

“You can always start small, but the key is just doing it,” he said. “Find a way to make it happen and just work toward it.”