Students and PTSA members hold ‘Grassroots’ club to keep campus clean

Dylan Zorn and Sylvan Gordon-Wagen

In October of 2021, Grassroots, a club designed by the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) chair member Christine Svallin had its second official campus clean-up. The program began over a year ago to keep Redwood well maintained for students and faculty but did not commence on campus until recently due to COVID-19 restrictions and online school. In August of 2021, the club came together, successfully completing two clean-up days since then and producing substantial results.

Svallin was not pleased with the landscaping conditions on campus, as there was overgrown plant life and fallen leaves all over. In 2020, Svallin decided that the campus’ lack of landscaping needed a change. 

“When my first child started at Redwood, I immediately noticed that the campus needed to be cleaned up and refreshed. As a member of the PTSA, I was able to ask for grants to clean up specific parts of campus, and that’s how Grassroots began,” Svallin said.  

Cutting away branches, father and son volunteers work to clean up the plants along the main building

Grassroots cleaned the perimeter of the school along the main parking lot as well as trimmed and replanted the plant life around the lunch tables. They removed excess plants, bushes were trimmed and the dirt around both areas was swept with the intent of making the campus a more welcoming place. 

Senior Jose Perez often spends lunch and break periods by the quad and appreciates the progress made by the club.

“Sometimes I don’t want to just sit in a car, so coming to the lunch tables or quad on campus is the next best thing. Now there are attractive places to be instead of the paint-chipped seating and dead plants,” Perez said.

Svallin is planning on taking Grassroots’ cleanup skills to the quad next to refine the vegetation and improve the appearance of the main building. 

“We just received a grant from the foundation, so we will be revamping the center area of the quad, repainting the benches, trimming bushes and trees and making it a much more welcoming place,” Svallin said. “Although we do not have a set date for this cleanup, we are planning on completing it before next February.” 

Grassroots is rapidly gaining popularity, with over 50 students signed up for the next cleanup, more than twice the amount of people that attended the first clean-up. In addition to the cleanup of the quad, the organization intends to work on other areas of campus that have not received maintenance or landscaping.

“The blacktop is in need of some cleaning up, we have noticed lots of overgrown bushes and plants. The paint on the lunch tables near the portables are also pretty old,” Svallin said.

Grassroots is planning on having a third cleanup around ski week in February of 2022. 

“We are working on getting a grant for a cleanup by next February,” Svallin said. “The large grass area between the main building and the small gym could use our help, and we are hopeful to get another amazing crew together for that clean-up in the future.”

Sophomore Ryan Ip, a member of the Boy Scouts, volunteered at the second Grassroots cleanup through the Boy Scouts and was impressed with the organization of the cleanup. 

“Each group of volunteers was assigned to one part of the quad to clean up. Christine [Svallin] would help each group with cleaning up, and walk around the quad giving tools to the people involved,” Ip said.  

The Boy Scouts involved in the cleanup ranged in age from 14-17, many of them students at Redwood. Senior Eagle Scout, Arya Shadan, took advantage of the community service opportunity to make the campus more lively.

“No one in the Boys Scouts was required to participate in Grassroots. All of the members, including myself, used this opportunity to make an impact on a place that we spend a lot of our time in,” Shadan said.

Grassroots’ campus benefits also give students more chances to help their community directly and make a difference in the campus they attend daily. 

“I have always thought that Redwood could benefit from a campus cleanup, and when I found out that I could help, I was really excited to be a part of it. At the Boy Scouts, we are encouraged to take advantage of opportunities like these in which we can make places we care about better, ” Shadan said.

Finishing a planter box, the newly trimmed plants make the landscaping cleaner.

Grassroots has been able to make an immediate visual impact on students. After just two days of work, students have taken notice of the better cared for the campus. Senior Eli Whitney believes that Grassroots’ work has been impactful and is making campus life more vibrant. 

“I have definitely noticed the entire campus looking a lot neater and green. It makes our school a more enjoyable place to be at, and shows that people actually care about our community,” Whitney said. “Trimming the bushes and repainting the benches has brought a more vibrant feel to the quad.”

Formerly, bird excrement, discarded plant matter and unattended structures made the quad and surrounding areas uninspiring for students at lunch looking for a pleasant seating.

“I remember my freshman year, most of the planters here or benches were covered in bird poop and it was hard to even find a place to sit after going through the [Covered Eating Area],” Perez said. “Hopefully they can get the rest of the school presentable because the quad isn’t the only place in need of their attention.”

Grassroots has created an enjoyable environment for students who have little time to spend outdoors, especially during the winter months. Thankfully, for students that admire the progress, the cleaning and painting will continue into next semester. 

Grassroots is open to anyone interested in making an impact on our campus. For more information on how to sign up look out for a Sign-Up Genius link coming to the Redwood Twig in the spring semester.