Victoria kids win $25K in national recycling competition
Top Victoria finishers
Among schools with 500-600 students:
• Smith Elementary finished sixth place and a $1,000 prize
• F.W. Gross finished in 10th place and a $1,000 prize.
• In addition to the annual grand prize, Torres Elementary won a $1,000 semester prize.
If you go
• WHAT: Recycling awards ceremony
• WHEN: 1:30 p.m. June 3
WHERE: VISD Fine Arts Center, 1002 Sam Houston Dr.
Victoria students will be lifelong recyclers after winning the $25,000 grand prize in a national recycling competition, according to to the organizer of the effort at Torres Elementary School.
"I had no idea how much work it was going to be, but it was worth it," Kecia Garcia, an art teacher at Torres, said. "We are forever changed."
Torres Elementary is one of three Victoria elementary schools that placed in the national Dream Machine Recycle Rally sponsored by PepsiCo. Torres placed second among schools with 500 to 600 students but will receive the $25,000 prize because the top placer received the monetary award the previous two years, and no school is allowed the grand prize three times in a row.
"I knew from all the hard work we were doing we would get a place, but first place was out of the park. I mean that was great," said Hannah Tyler, 10, of Victoria, a fourth-grader at Torres Elementary and vice president of the recycling team.
This year was the third year for Victoria schools to participate in the challenge but the first for any of the schools to place. The city's environmental services met with Victoria elementary schools to encourage them to meet the challenge's 25-pound-per-week requirement to get their recycling containers and service to the containers paid for by PepsiCo.
Garcia said the school's goal from the start was 25 pounds per week, but by the end of the challenge, students were bringing in hundreds of pounds of No. 1 plastic and nonalcoholic product aluminum cans per week.
"It's hard to explain how much 100 pounds actually is. One full bag of smashed bottles and cans is about 8 pounds," Garcia said. "To bring 10 full bags in my art room, it was kind of hard."
At the beginning of the year, Torres had one 6-yard recycling container but needed two 8-yard recycling containers by the end of the year, said Breanna Plunkett, Victoria environmental services education specialist.
Plunkett estimates that Victoria school district saved more than $20,000 in container fees and transportation by participating in the recycling challenge. The school will have its big check ceremony in June. According to the contest rules, the prize must go toward an environmental improvement or environmental friendly project.
Alisa Jones, a mother of a fourth-grade student at Torres Elementary, cried at Thursday night's school board meeting when the winners of the recycling challenge were announced.
"It was so much time and dedication. The support from the community and Mrs. Garcia was amazing," Jones said. "It was for my son. It was to make him proud to go to go to VISD and Torres Elementary."
Jones' 10-year-old son, Kaden, said it was hard work to pick up recycling at local businesses around town every Thursday after school, but he kept his eyes on the goal.
"I thought that even if I was tired and even if I was sore that it would still pay off. I would think that the whole school would benefit from the award that we got, and everyone is going to be super-uber excited," Kaden said.
The recycling challenge not only made Victoria kids into lifelong recyclers but converted some parents as well.
"After the whole process, the girls at work couldn't throw away their water bottles," Kaden's mom said. "I'm only 34, but we never thought at that age that we'd need to recycle, but I've learned so much myself doing this competition that it makes you want to continue to recycle."