Torres Elementary School has gained nationwide attention for its efforts to protect the environment.

The elementary school won first place in the national PepsiCo Recycling Rally, beating out schools of similar size all over the U.S. to earn the grand prize. It was no small accomplishment when the final tallies came in, and the total number of aluminum cans and plastic drink bottles totaled 184,569.

Teacher Kecia Garcia was a major organizer of the school's efforts. When the project started, she saw the potential to help the neighborhood where she lives as well as the school and environment.

Her home is in a subdivision that does not receive city waste pickup. She worked with other students who lived in the neighborhood to establish a Green Team that collected cans and bottles from the area and transported them to school each week. It became a spirited project that garnered great support from the neighborhood.

The Brentwood Green Team went house to house collecting each week, and Fridays, the school's Early Act First Knight service club walked the drop-off line gathering recyclables from parents.

The enthusiasm spread into the community with individuals and businesses collecting cans and drink bottles to add to the growing success of the rally efforts.

Garcia said when they started, they hoped to collect about 25 pounds each week, but soon, the tally was totaling more than 100 pounds weekly. The efforts grew to the point in which they were no longer talking pounds but tons of recycling. The tally was more than 41/2 tons. Rally leaders say that if you laid all the recycled materials end to end, the line would reach from the Victoria Regional Airport to The Texas Zoo.

The magnitude of the program was a big enough reason to celebrate, but earning a $25,000 grand prize called for a big celebration. Tuesday, the student body, teachers, assistants, office staff, custodial staff and child nutrition team were transported to the Victoria Fine Arts Center in school buses.

As the students came into the building, they were greeted by a double line of Victoria East Titans offering high fives to the students. Athletes and cheerleaders were at the start of the celebration that went into the auditorium, where the students met the Victoria Mayor Paul Polasek. They heard a resolution from the state House of Representatives read by Rep. Geanie Morrison. The Torres Tigers heard from Superintendent Robert Jaklich, who applauded their accomplishment. They heard from a representative of Congressman Blake Farenthold and offered a standing ovation for Garcia, the Brentwood Green Dream and EAFK service club. They met a warrior who benefited from the support of Pepsico with the Entrepreneurial Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities. His service dog, Argos, was a big hit as well. The rally ended with the presentation of $25,000 to Principal Sherry Gorsuch, Assistant Principal Crystal Rice and Garcia for the school to use in a green project.

Schools in VISD are already talking about "next year," when the rally begins again.

By the way, schools are dismissed for the summer, but that does not mean students will have nothing to do. Visit the VISD website for a sampling of some of the summer offerings across our district.

Diane Boyett is the communications director for Victoria school district. Contact her at

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