Oh, the things they’ll find

Students discover treasures in discarded school locker items


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Former Eagle River High School freshman Dillon Hacker shows off just a portion of the school supplies he salvaged for his upcoming sophomore year after his fellow students discarded them during locker clean out day.

AMY M. ARMSTRONG

When Dillon Hacker cleaned out his locker at Eagle River High School the Tuesday before the then freshman prepared for final exams, he was already thinking about his sophomore year starting in August 2014.

He’s taking geometry next year and knew that requires specific school supplies: A protractor and angle drawing triangles. He found them. They were nestled among mint condition binders, notebooks full of paper and ink pens full enough for plenty more writing that his fellow students discarded in the recycling bins stationed throughout the hallways.

“I’m scavenging,” he said with a smile as he dug to the bottom of one of the bins setting the pink binders and pink locker shelves to the side and not in the pile of treasures he was acquiring in the ten-minute time period school administrators allotted for students to clean out their lockers.

Fate was on his side May 20 giving him so extra time to riffle through the bins. He didn’t have to catch the bus back to his home on Fort Richardson because he had to do after-school detention.

“It’s the only time I’ve been in trouble all year,” he said with a smile almost as infectious as the one spreading across his face when he scored a full container of pencil lead.

“Oh, yah, I need lead,” he said. “And binders. I trash my binders easily.”

By the end of his school-supply gathering journey, Hacker made off with the equivalent of enough freebies to make any school shopping mother completely giddy with savings: More than ten binders, plenty of graphing paper, a thick, unopened ream of that spendy Office Max filler paper, five folders without any creases, a monster-size green eraser and a fistful of pens and pencils.

Clinton Holloway, language arts instructor at ERHS, was more than okay with Hacker’s haul.

Three years ago, Holloway began the school’s locker cleanout recycling program. As an educator, he’d watched students tossing away perfectly good school supplies and clothing for far too long. He knew there had to be a better, more purposeful destination for the myriad of items coming out of student lockers at the end of the school year.

“It was so wasteful and so expensive for the district because all of that stuff had to be hauled to the dump,” Holloway said as he surveyed the contents of bins marked for recycling and bins designated for trash. “The students were tossing perfectly good school supplies and clothes. Now we try to encourage them to divert items that can be used again so we can rescue some of this stuff.”

Clinton, several other teachers and the school’s safety and security specialist, Brian Cain, squirrel away what supplies they can salvage to distribute the following school year.

Cain snagged seven collapsible locker shelving units, numerous messaage board and mirrors, a couple homemade locker organizers and very nifty chemistry book cover.

“These are all thing the kids need next year,” he said. “So I want the incoming freshmen who need supplies to come see me and we will get them set up.”

It wasn’t just paper and pencils being chucked out of lockers. There were plenty of half-emptied snack bags, mints, gum and coffee mugs.

Jordan Stemper, a freshman shared his downstairs locker with his good friend, Cammie Brown, whose start-of-the-year locker assignment was upstairs and too far, in her estimation, to get to during passing time based on the location of her classes.

The bulk of the mess in Stemper’s locker was not his, he quickly explained, when asked about the pile of assorted items on the floor. The clothes and the coffee cup aren’t mine, he said, pointing out to the coffee stains in the bottom of the locker.

In years past, stories of rotten food turned into science experiments gone bad, circulated on locker cleaning day. This year, freshman Jessica Scott had some tortillas in her locker. She laughed as she admitted she wasn’t sure if they were a week or maybe two weeks old. But, alas, no smell emitted as she removed them.

For ERHS principal Marty Lang, locker clean-out day is always a curious question mark. He watches with amusement and keen eyes as items are removed.

“The myth of the mess in the student locker isn’t what it used to be,” he commented, noting that perhaps he witnessed messier clean-out days in the early years of his teaching career before he became an administrator. “I think it has something to do with the advent of this,” he said, as he displayed his own cell phone. “Not nearly as much paper anymore. Everything is on here now.”

 

Author’s note: I will admit I went to ERHS locker clean-out day with my older kid’s high school lockers in mind. But alas, I was unable to find a locker similar to the clothing and makeup boutique my very sweet stepdaughter had back in 2007. I did however hear a couple of students say something along the lines of, “oh, so that’s where that assignment went” as they reached to the back of their locker. That would have been my stepson Joshua, who just graduated with a 3.5 from the University of Minnesota, but struggled greatly with the “locker monster” that stole most of his homework when he attended Chugiak High School. Thanks for the memories you two. Your younger brother’s sophomore locker this year was so boring. Not much in there at all.

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