Glenridge Middle eighth-grader Jackson Fu was instrumental in helping to get recycling bins installed in three ROA parks.
All it took for 14-year-old Jackson Fu to come up with an idea for a school service project was a simple glance at the Union Park playground.
The Glenridge Middle School eighth-grader was enjoying some time at the park with his parents in August when he noticed some plastic water bottles and bits of cardboard scattered on the ground.
Some simple recyclable items people had failed to properly dispose of suddenly were the inspiration behind a school community project he is required to complete as an IB student.
“It was just really obvious,” Jackson says. “People are just throwing away all this plastic, and also when I was seeing stuff, I had my school community project in mind. I thought maybe I could do something about this, because there’s so much that could be recycled. We could help out the ecosystem.”
Eighth-grade students in Glenridge’s IB program must decide on a community-service project in order to receive their IB diploma. Many students choose to complete volunteer hours with a charity or other organization of their choice.
Jackson, however, thought outside the box. As a scholar athlete, he juggles maintaining a straight-A grade average at school while dedicating a good amount of time to playing with the Orlando City Youth Soccer Club. Free time for him can be scarce.
“Jackson doesn’t have a lot of time,” says his mother, Leah Fu. “Many students with the project have to go find hours, and this is a more large-scale project that, instead of putting in hours regularly, he could manage and check in and make a big impact overall.”
He and his family make it a point whenever they’re out and about to pick up any recyclables they see on the ground and bring them home to place in their own recycling bin. Jackson noticed that although there were trash cans at the park, there weren’t any recycling bins.
“First, there was no option to recycle around here,” Jackson says. “Mainly, the whole idea is to get recycling bins out there near the trash cans and make them pretty obvious.”
He decided to reach out to the Baldwin Park Residential Owners Association to tell them about his idea for implementing recycling bins. The ROA later followed up and invited him to give a short presentation at their meeting.
“I went to a board meeting and gave a little presentation, and they agreed,” Jackson says. “They did a lot of research and they came up with this design. … The design got sent over to the (Architectural Review Committee), and they denied it.”
Jackson had some help from his parents in finding a new design that would meet the ARC’s requirements, and he coordinated with the ROA board throughout the process.
“We went back and we picked a new design that looked a lot like the trash cans but that was completely blue, and they approved it,” Jackson says. “They’re going to be located at High Park, Union Park and Enders Park, basically where all the playgrounds are and the hot spots.”
DRS Construction of Central Florida completed the installation of the new recycling bins, each of which sits on a concrete pad. Accepted recyclables include glass bottles, aluminum cans and plastic bottles.
For the school project, Jackson had to put together a presentation and present it in front of a random classroom. His classmates and teacher enjoyed hearing about it, and he received a 100%.
“He seemed really impressed and he told me that he really liked what I did and that it was going to help the ecosystem,” Jackson says of his teacher’s reaction. “It’s just a great project overall. It’s a great feeling because over a long time this will help out the ecosystem a lot, and it will help make it even better.”
His parents — and the ROA board — were impressed with his drive and passion behind the project.
“Jackson decided to tackle it, and he learned a lot about how the process and presentations on an idea eventually become a reality, which was a great experience for him,” Leah Fu says. “He learned … when he started the initial inquisitions in August, he had to present (the idea) and was denied, and then continued working on a solution. It’s wonderful, it’s really wonderful. We’re very proud of him.”
Jackson said it’s important for people to realize the value of recycling, and they should take the time to place their trash or recyclables in the appropriate bins rather than discarding them on the ground.
After seeing some bags of dog feces in one of the bins, Jackson added that he wants people to know only recyclables belong in them.
“A recycling can is completely full of bottles and if one person puts in dog poop, the whole thing is contaminated and nothing can be recycled,” Jackson says. “We only get one Earth, and it just shows that the ecosystem will get better if people are into recycling and making the world a better place.”