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From Kentucky to Quincy, students clean up a park

A group of 32 Kentucky teenagers spent the afternoon of July 26 clearing pathways and collecting discarded trash at the state’s Squantum Point Park. It was part of an annual “Youth and Government” program sponsored bhy the state and the Kentucky YMCA.

QUINCY — Squantum Point Park at Marina Bay had its usual scattering of visitors Wednesday afternoon. There were cyclists and walkers, and three men lounged in the shade near the pier, keeping a casual eye on their upright fishing poles down at the water.

The men also watched a troop of high school students in grape, orange and aqua T shirts make their way along the park’s paved and gravel paths. Some of the students gathered armloads of clipped, leafy branches to toss into truck beds. Others plucked empty water bottles and torn pieces of plastic bags from the brush and bushes.

The locals didn’t know that a community-service project was taking place at the state park. Thirty-two students from Kentucky spent the day in Quincy on a “youth and government” program that is sponsored by their state government and the Kentucky YMCA.

Recent high school graduate Meredith Chaffin of Bowling Green was there, rake in hand, for her last excursion with the program before she heads off to New York University. Belle Townsend, who was on her second “Y Corps” trip, will return to Henderson for her senior year. Brandon Eugene of Louisville, also a senior, was on his first trip outside Kentucky.

“The exposure is good. You meet people around the nation,” Eugene said, as he and most of the group took a break at the park point, with the Boston skyline behind them.

Massachusetts and every other state has a program like this, but Kentucky’s is the largest, with 8,000 students. They raise their own money to go on the week of service and travel. They use crowdfunding websites, hold T-shirt and bake sales, and get businesses to serve as sponsors.

Before the students and three adult staff members spent Wednesday afternoon on the cleanup, they visited the Quincy’s “Church of the Presidents” and the Adams National Historical Park and shared a luncheon at the park with state Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, and state Rep. Bruce Ayers, D-Quincy.

Keenan and Ayers are two of the four State House sponsors for the Massachusetts program. The Quincy visit was sponsored by the city and Discover Quincy.

Trip manager Alex Muckler, a YMCA regional director, said Keenan and Ayers suggested Quincy as a destination for this year’s summer program. As in past years, the students didn’t know where they were headed when they left the Bluegrass State. “They get on a bus and trust us,” Muckler quipped. She said there’s a purpose to that: It helps the students keep their attention on the sites and volunteer work at each stop.

Ayers and Keenan suggested the Squantum park because Quincy is trying to persuade the state to start a ferry service to and from Boston, and they figured that a trimmed, litter-free park couldn’t hurt.

Muckler said that’s fine for her and others with the student program. “This is what the program is for,” she said. “They’re getting development experience, and a lot of them go on to work for nonprofits.”

The students said they were drawn to the “Y Corps” for a variety of interests. Chaffin wants to be politically active someday. About-to-be seniors Kerby Gilstrap of Bowling Green and Sheridan Forker of Henderson said community service is important to the them.

“It’s your duty as a human being,” Forker said. “I have the ability to help other people, so that’s what I want to do.”

Besides, Henderson senior Belle Townsend said, “we’re all politics geeks.”

This week’s trip started in Cincinnati. From Quincy, the group will travel to New Haven, Conn., New York City, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and return to Kentucky on Sunday. Along the way, they’ll tend a community garden in a working-class Brooklyn neighborhood and do grounds maintenance at the Jefferson Memorial.

Back on a gravel path near the Squantum Point pier, Forker and a second student dropped one tossed-away bottle after another into a black trash bag, as a nearby park visitor lounged in a lawn chair, half-asleep.

“It’s so nice out here,” Forker said. “We’re having fun.”

Article source: http://www.patriotledger.com/news/20170726/from-kentucky-to-quincy-students-clean-up-park

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