Mt. Lebanon students recycle, donate school supplies

Published Jun 22, 2014 at 9:33 pm (Updated Jun 22, 2014 at 9:33 pm)

One of the end-of-the-year rituals that high school students look forward to is cleaning out their lockers. However, often some of the items being tossed out are in perfectly good shape – some never been used at all – forgotten in the bottom of the locker.

Kara Touscany and Hannah Linn, 2014 graduates of Mt. Lebanon High School, decided that it was a shame to let those supplies go to waste, so they wanted to do something about it.

“We were both in the same boat, with a lot of extra stuff,” Touscany said.

In their junior year, as part of an assignment in teacher Mike Gullo’s AP environmental geosciences class, Touscany and Linn came up with an idea of how to make their school “greener.” Gullo had students in the class write letters to the principals of the school, and Touscany and Linn’s proposal to donate the gently used and brand new school supplies that would otherwise be thrown out when students are cleaning their lockers was approved.

For the past two years, the school has donated more than 200 pounds of supplies to Pittsburgh Public Schools. This year, they donated to Spring Hill Elementary School.

“I thought their idea was extremely creative, and was very impressed with their selflessness and ability to address two concerns – reducing waste that ends up in landfills and, more importantly, helping a local elementary school receive school supplies,” Gullo said.

At the end of the school year, Touscany said there were volunteers stationed around the hallways making sure that any usable supplies were placed in a separate bin and not thrown away.

Touscany, who helped deliver the supplies to Spring Hill Elementary this year, said they collected mostly binders – accounting for 100 pounds of the donated supplies.

“There were also a fair amount of notebooks that people were just going to throw out,” she said, adding that writing utensils and folders were also donated.

“It was their idea and I thought it was important to let them run with it,” Gullo said. “I was just an advocate for the girls. With my help, they tackled their first hurdle – getting their idea approved by the high school administration.”

Gullo said he has received positive feedback from administration and students about the program.

“Last year was the first year we implemented the program, and only a handful of students were involved. This year marked the second year and the student awareness increased 10 fold,” Gullo said. “Under Kara and Hannah’s leadership, this really turned out to be a collaborative effort for many, many students and staff – from the custodian staff providing boxes for us to collect school supplies to students offering ideas and help for next year,” he said.

The program is growing and Gullo hopes it keep growing for years to come.

“The girls came up with the idea to spread word to surrounding schools in the South Hills about our project,” Gullo said. “We contacted a few schools, and Bethel Park thought the idea was amazing and collected gently used school supplies on their locker clean out days to donate as well.” He said his goal for next year is to add at least one more school to the list.

“My favorite part was actually delivering the school supplies,” Linn said, adding she loved travelling to the school and meeting the faculty there. “People don’t realize how many school supplies they do throw away.”

“For me, it’s showed me how close to home people are in need. You drive 10 minutes and people need school supplies. People do really need help right here at home,” Touscany said.

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