Ashley Lucas, a graduate of Peoria High School, is leaving a lasting impact at her high school.
The West Valley woman recently completed the Gold Award — the most prestigious award given by the Girl Scouts of the USA.
According to the Girl Scouts of the USA website, in order to receive the Gold Award, scouts must identify an issue, investigate it thoroughly, find help and build a team, create and present a plan, receive feedback from Girl Scouts of the USA and take action.
For Lucas’ issue, she noticed a lack of recycling efforts at Peoria High School, and decided to start a recycling club called the Green Team — an idea that would ultimately lead to the Gold Award.
“It all kind of began last year — my junior year. I had noticed throughout campus and throughout different classrooms that there wasn’t any recycling bins,” Lucas said. “It was really hard to find a recycling bin to throw paper away or water bottles, and that’s how it really began.”
Lucas took this idea and acted quickly.
“Toward the end of the (school) year, I submitted in paperwork to start a new club with our clubs and activities director at Peoria High School, and over the summer it got approved,” Lucas said.
Once the club was approved, she needed to find people to join the Green Team. This was particularly difficult because, according to Lucas, many people thought of the club as “a joke.”
That didn’t dissuade her.a
Lucas finally found the members she needed, which allowed her to start up the club at the same time as school sessions kicked off.
“I had brainstormed all these ideas (over the summer), and by the beginning of my senior year — which was fall 2018 — I had members and I had a support network to really help me complete my goal.
Because of the lack of recycling bins in the school campus, Lucas figured she would start there.
“St. Vincent de Paul had posted a Craigslist ad about a bunch of food crates they needed to get rid of for 50 cents a piece,” Lucas said. “I went down there and got about 40 little food crates.”
But when she stopped by the church, officials were curious as to why she needed so many food crates. After she explained the situation, St. Vincent de Paul decided to show even more generosity.
“They were so gracious enough that they gave them for free for us to use and utilize at Peoria High School,” Lucas said.
With the resources to implement a larger recycling culture at Peoria High, Lucas’ next step was to set up recycling pickup times.
“We created a recycling schedule with our student council, so every couple days we’d go pick up recycling at the library or classes that needed pickup and stuff like that,” she said.
Lucas did not stop with recycling, however. In fact, she took it upon herself to start fundraising new sustainability projects.
“I noticed our very old water fountains throughout campus, and we started fundraising money to get new water fountains — ones that you can fill your water bottles and drink from,” she said.
One requirement to attain the Gold Award is to find a way to maintain the project after leaving. This is where the Green Team comes in.
“I have a group of people still picking up and maintaining the recycling schedule (at Peoria High School), and they’re still fundraising for the water fountains that I envisioned,” Lucas said.
She officially completed her Gold Award at the beginning of June, after her final interview with the Girl Scouts of the USA, and she is now waiting to receive her completion letter. As she moves on in her life, Lucas wants to remind people of the importance of recycling.
“One of the easiest things to prevent litter and extra waste in landfills is to recycle,” Lucas said. “It’s so easy on our end to prevent an item going into a landfill and being created into something new again, again and again. I feel overall (recycling) keeps the community cleaner because most of the litter I see in my neighborhood is paper or water bottles — stuff that can be thrown in the recycle bin — and it just doesn’t happen to end up there.”
Lucas attributes much of her growth to her 12 years as a Girl Scout.
“I’ve learned the ability to expand my networking amongst the community, and (I’ve) developed my leadership skills as an individual,” she explained.
“I want to thank all the teachers and all the students at Peoria High who supported me,” Lucas said. “I also want to thank my parents, who put up with my hoarding of cardboard boxes.”
This fall, Lucas will study at Arizona State University, where she plans to major in sustainability.