These Students Used Their Lunch Period To Make A Big Change

From left to right: Student Wellness Club members Tiffiny Sounantha, Tonisha Lampkin, Miriam Arredondo, Jordan Reyes, Edith Gonzalez, and Alex Mobley. 

HealthCorps, Inc. 

This story is part of our Choices Changemakers series, where each month we spotlight teens doing amazing things in their schools and communities!

Once a week, about a dozen students from ASTEC Charter High School in Oklahoma City, OK, give up spending their lunch period with friends to incite positive change in their school and community.

The Student Wellness Club, as they are called, meets to plan and execute a variety of health initiatives under the guidance of HealthCorps Coordinator Megan Ling. HealthCorps is a nationwide non-profit organization created to combat obesity and foster physical and mental wellness among high-need populations. 

ASTEC students' past projects include local volunteer work and school-wide information booths, but their latest efforts were enough to make their entire school rethink an everyday behavior. 

While brainstorming ways to promote a cleaner environment, Student Wellness Club members noted that the plastic water bottles that come with school lunches (which the majority of students buy) were being trashed instead of recycled, creating a lot of unnecessary waste. Their school was harming the earth without even knowing it. A poster made by the Student Wellness Club

Inspired to reduce the damage, club members spoke with the custodial staff to see about installing recycling bins in the cafeteria. They found that the school already had recycling receptacles; they just weren’t being used. The custodians were more than willing to help. 

The club then made huge posters to promote recycling and hung them all around the school, and they stood near the recycling bins during lunch to verbally encourage their peers to adopt the alternative method of water bottle disposal.

Staff and administration were receptive to the change and happy to see students spearheading such an important mission, but the student body as a whole was initially unsure as to why they should start recycling. Oklahoma lacks a statewide incentive to recycle, so kids never learn about the harm of throwing everything in the trash. But once they saw their friends participate, they were eager to join in the fun.

The Student Wellness Club was excited to take on a leadership role within the school, and proud to see how many of their principals, teachers, and fellow students started recycling as a result of their hard work.

Ling argues that school doesn’t have to be an endless cycle of authority figures telling kids what to do; students are allowed and encouraged to take responsibility. She advises students:

“If you have an idea, gather other people who are like-minded and a staff/community member who can advocate for you, because you really can make a difference. You’re never too young to make change in whatever your passion may be.”

To read about more teens who sparked positive change in their school, check out our brand new Choices Changemaker, Alex Castillo, who fought to bring a salad bar to his school cafeteria—and won!