Beach cleanup encourages community service from Grand Valley students

Student picks up trash on beach.
Political science major Dae Charles picks up trash August 28 at Grand Haven State Park. Grand Valley's Community Service Learning Center organized the event to encourage students to participate in community service.
Image Credit: Brian Vernellis

A trip to the beach may be the ideal spot on a humid, late summer day, but for Grand Valley students, a recent trip to the West Michigan lakeshore reminded them of the importance in community engagement and service.

Coordinated by Grand Valley’s Community Services Learning Center, dozens of students spent the morning of August 28 picking up trash at Grand Haven State Park. The beach cleanup benefited the Adopt-A-Beach program with the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

This year, students picked up 70 pounds of trash from the beach. In two years, more than 155 pounds of trash have been collected.

CSLC staff members aim for the day to be the introduction of a lifetime of community engagement and service for the students. 

“Our goal is to get students to be active global citizens,” said Gigi Ward, graduate assistant for civic engagement. 

“We want the students to leave feeling connected to a community, but also knowing how to be in that community and how to serve that community in a way that makes sense to them. And, that goes along with the Laker values and our mission as an institution.”

Melissa Baker-Boosarma, associate director of student life for civic engagement & assessment, would like to see the event become annual after a hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“This is just a fun way to get students knowing more about our team and our office, and that there are lots of different ways for them to get involved in the community and give back,” she said.

For political science major Dae Charles, her Saturday morning collecting trash wasn’t a burden, but a responsibility. 

“As much as we are out here enjoying the scenery, we should give back,” said Charles. “We should give as much as (the beach) provides to us. 

“We need to keep places we enjoy clean to enjoy them as long as we can.”

Students walk through park looking for trash
Dozens of Grand Valley students participated in the Community Service Learning Center's beach cleanup August 28 at Grand Haven State Park.
Image Credit: Brian Vernellis