Environmental Knights, HELP clubs make a difference

Green student organizations come together to make McCallum, greater Austin community better


Shila Gill

Members of the Environmental Knights club participate in a trash clean-up at McKinney Falls. After cleaning up the grounds, several Environmental Knights went fishing. The group is taking another field trip on Monday to West Cave Preserve.

Shila Gill, Mac photojournalism

All waves were once ripples. The Environmental Knights and the HELP Club do not stray far from that idea. Sophomore and president of both clubs Hazel Johnson describes the ripples the two clubs have made already.

“The impact we’ve made thus far this year hasn’t been anything extreme, but I think each of our cleanups and other events has accomplished what we wanted them to,” Johnson said.

Sophomore Ivy Christies, a co-vice president of the Environmental Knights and a co-founder of the HELP Club, echoes Johnson’s statement.

It was just cool seeing students getting their hands dirty and helping out people that are potential strangers for their benefit.

— Gabriel Adame, the sponsor of both clubs

“Both clubs have been working with a lot of volunteer opportunities as well as cleanups over this first semester,” Christie said.

Gabriel Adame, the sponsor of both clubs, said that both clubs have done an excellent job of building connections with worthwhile organizations off campus.

“My favorite event is a close tie between Austin Creative Reuse and the Austin Diaper Bank mostly because it was just cool seeing students getting their hands dirty and helping.”

These clubs have been active within the community, both at McCallum and in the larger city. They have gone to and hosted events such as campus cleanups, and a cleanup at Marble Falls and have worked with other organizations such as Austin Creative Reuse on food drives and Austin Diaper Bank where they sorted feminine products for women as well as schools that were in need of them.

Effective communication has been incredibly important to both clubs. They not only use reminders to communicate among their members but they also use posters as well at BLEND announcements to advertise their volunteer opportunities with the hope that these clubs will continue to grow in members. The club meetings take place every other week for both the Environmental Knights and the HELP Club. At these meetings, they usually go over future volunteer opportunities for their members, and they develop an overall vision for their mission. Visualizing by writing their ideas out also helps them stay organized.

Adame also believes that they have a good system in place for effective communication.

Hazel Johnson, the president of the HELP Club attended a food drive on Sept. 17, advertised by the McCallum HELP Club. The food drive’s mission was to collect donated food and hygiene products to give to the homeless and those on the brink of poverty. “I learned how much hygiene products are needed, everyone only thinks of food, but hygiene products are rare in donations,” Johnson said. (Shila Gill)

“Now thanks to FIT we do have a period for planning,” Adame said. “That’s cool because it has nothing to do with the leaders. It’s the group members that come help plan and give us ideas, then I relay that to the leaders, and they figure out what needs to be done and they reemphasize those things every other week when we have our meetings.”

These clubs are very focused on things like growth to ensure their future success. To achieve these goals and to increase the impact that they make on their community, they are planning to host events such as a Green Week in support of Earth Day as well as a movie in the park fundraiser, and partnering with a nonprofit. These are all ideas that will help them to gain traction and further their club’s outreach.

They [the clubs] not only push us as students to educate ourselves on our current society and environment but also promote volunteering and becoming a part of the solution.

— Ivy Christie, and officer for both clubs

Christie thinks that these clubs are so important because they push students to be a part of the solution.

“Clubs like these shine light on the issues that affect our day-to-day life,” Christie said. “They not only push us as students to educate ourselves on our current society and environment but also promote volunteering and becoming a part of the solution.”

While these two clubs have had major success they have also had some obstacles that have stood in their way, Johnson has had trouble finding a time for the HELP Club to meet.

“With the environment, we haven’t had too many obstacles thus far, but since there were no resources left behind by previous leadership I did have to pretty much rebuild the whole club by finding a sponsor, leadership team, and members and going from there,” Johnson said. ”With HELP we’ve had a bit more of a difficult time and most of the road bumps we came across were due to FIT not happening (that was our planned meeting time) and then once it did start our previous plan didn’t work out for a number of reasons so now we plan to meet every other Wednesday at lunch.”

Christe took a different approach to obstacles that they faced focusing more on the personal impact they caused.

“Starting HELP came with a lot of quickly obtained responsibilities to keep track of that we had to balance with not only Environmental Knights but also our grades, extracurriculars, clubs we take a part in, as well as our out-of-school lives,” Christie said. “I personally struggled at first to find a balance that worked for me, to keep track of not only my grades and major but also my job while still prioritizing leadership for my commitments to the clubs.”

While Mr. Adame believes a struggle has been some confusion as to which events are for which clubs but that overall being a member of these clubs will prepare them for the future.

Students can volunteer and help people a lot of times on their own, without an adult that’s doing everything.

— Sponsor for both clubs Gabriel Adame

“Students can volunteer and help people a lot of times on their own, without an adult that’s doing everything,” Adame said. “I think that’s been the biggest thing because I know that once these kids are in college a lot of that responsibility is going to land on them to produce or create those opportunities, the fact that they are doing it in high school makes it like practice makes perfect, they’ll be ready once they’re gone.”

These clubs will continue to make a difference even after Johnson and Christie graduate and pass the clubs down to an enthusiastic freshmen. They have many upcoming events that they are planning to ensure they make ripples that will one day be waves.