KILLEEN — For many, spring means cleaning out and in Texas it’s time for the annual “trash-off” to beautify streets, roads, highways and other public areas.

At Haynes Elementary School, counselor Melissa Nettlingham, with help from the school’s adopt-a-school unit soldiers and Fort Hood’s environmental outreach, led students to do their part Friday in cleaning up the school grounds.

From youngest to oldest, students gathered in the gym for their music and PE time and heard from their counselor the importance of picking up trash and sorting out what’s not trash.

With help from 18 soldiers of the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students took their turns picking up trash and sorting recyclables within designated areas around the school in Killeen.

At the end of each period, Nettlingham gathered the troops — the ones in uniform and the smaller ones — and pointed out the difference between the amount of recyclable material collected in light-colored bags and the actual waste collected in a single dark trash bag.

The Fort Hood Directorate of Public Works Environmental office provided the bags, protective gloves and trash grabbers for the event.

“The importance of not littering and picking up trash even if it’s not yours,” Nettlingham said, explaining the purpose of the activity.

The school, she said, is working with the city of Killeen to arrange regular pick-up of recyclable items. This was the second year Haynes Elementary coordinated with Fort Hood to beautify the campus during the Don’t Mess With Texas Trash-Off, which was Saturday.

“I want them to see how little trash we have compared to what we can recycle,” she said.

The school counselor said she began recycling as a college student and continued when she worked at a “green school.”

Haynes student council members helped coordinate the school clean-up day.

“We’re picking up litter — trash and recycling,” said fifth-grader Rihanna Jackson, student council vice president. “It’s about helping the environment. We got into recycling this year.”

“We want to recycle and reduce energy,” said fifth-grader Kiara Tanks, the council president. “We don’t want to have piles of trash everywhere. You can reduce the amount of trash and turn it into something else.”

Student council members toured Fort Hood’s recycling center and this week will join students from a variety of area schools at the post’s annual Earth Day event that includes a tree planting and stations dealing with ecology.

“We know it’s very important to recycle,” said Jackson, “and we want to make sure the younger kids know it’s important, too.”

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