When it comes to helping make a difference in the Anchorage community, sometimes students just have to get their tongs dirty.
This summer, the Union of Students of the University of Alaska Anchorage, or USUAA, continued their efforts with the Adopt-a-Road Program through the Municipality of Anchorage.
USUAA adopted the stretch of 36th Avenue ranging from the Lake Otis intersection up to the intersection with the New Seward Highway. A blue sign stands on the side of 36th Avenue proclaiming USUAA as the official adopters of this portion of the road.
The program is composed of a three-year contract with the municipality, in which the volunteering organization is responsible for cleaning the side of the roadway at least three times during no-snow periods.
Jamie Bagley, USUAA student body vice president, says that participation in the Adopt-a-Road Program is just one of many services that USUAA partakes in to give back to the Anchorage and campus communities.
“There was surprisingly less trash than last year, that was good news,” USUAA Senator Alex Jorgenson said at the May 28 USUAA meeting. “The road clean-up went really well. Me and Jamie and John picked up a lot of trash.”
Compared to last summer, Bagley said that there has been less turnout for participants. She attributes this to the time of year, as many students have left the campus for summer break. However, there will be multiple opportunities throughout the summer to help out with the clean-up.
“Last year we did an extra time right after school started,” Bagley said.
By having a clean-up day later in the summer, more people can be involved as the university community livens up during the fall semester.
“It’s really important that we get a lot of people there,” Jorgenson said at the Tuesday meeting.
The clean-up activity begins at 11 a.m., and with enough people, the volunteers will split into two groups, each team tackling an assigned side of the avenue. Their route begins at the Lake Otis intersection and teams gather roadside trash as they head westward toward the Seward Highway.
“We’ll get all of the gear required. We have tongs and plastic bags, and for safety, we have our orange vests and we’ll start picking up from there,” Bagley said.
Though the job can be messy, the USUAA team makes the experience fun.
“Sometimes we have competitions to see who can get the most trash. We just have fun and talk and pick up trash,” Bagley said.
The fun times can be seen in various social media posts from USUAA on their Adopt-a-Road exploits.
Aside from the comradery, the types of trash can even be an interesting experience, according to Bagley.
“We found a giant water pipe one time,” Bagley said, extending her arms to show the size of a few feet. “It was metal, and one of the guys wanted to pick it up, but it was kind of heavy. It wasn’t connected to anything, we just found it.”
Jorgenson shared the tale of finding a wet mattress to the amusement of those gathered at the USUAA meeting.
Large items such as the pipe or mattress can be reported to the municipality for a larger crew to come pick up and dispose of.
While out cleaning the road, USUAA members and volunteers are also able to interact directly with the community. At the most recent clean-up day on May 21, an Anchorage resident walking his dog stopped to thank them.
“He approached us, and it was kind of hard to hear him because of the traffic, but he said ‘I really appreciate you guys coming out here and cleaning up the road,’” Bagley said.
One of the main goals of participating in the Adopt-a-Road program is important to USUAA members.
“We’re out there trying to create a better community,” Bagley said.
This activity is not only for USUAA members, but can be a way for anyone to take part in giving back to the community. Bagley invited members of the UAA community to join in on clean-up day.
“We’re open to anyone joining us,” Bagley said. “Afterwards, we have pizza and get refreshments.”
Jorgenson echoed Bagley’s invitation to those outside of USUAA.
“Feel free to join us, it was actually a lot of fun,” Jorgenson said at the USUAA meeting. “The sun was out, a beautiful day, a bunch of friends picking up trash and eating pizza.”
For those interested in joining USUAA during a cleaning day, the dates and times can be found on their calendar. The next scheduled day is on June 18 at 11 a.m. Volunteers will be meeting at the Student Government Office in the Student Union, Room 201.