Key club cleans up arboretum grounds

Brynn Krug

East High’s Environmental Key Club is improving East and helping the community by cleaning up the arboretum.

The Environmental Key club has been at East for over 20 years. It is currently run by teachers Slavi Bonev and Melanie Bunger and president Kolandra Roundtree. 

“Most of the trees that are in the perimeter of the school are planted with the help of the Environmental Key Club,” said Bonev.

Besides helping out the environment around our school, the club also volunteers elsewhere. 

They went “to Severson Dells and picked out invasive species and helped to make the forest preserve more native and have more native species,” said Roundtree.

They are also involved with the Great American Cleanup where they pick up trash around busy roads.

Their most recent project, on March 4th, was to clean up the East arboretum. The club, and also any other students who were interested in helping, spent all day clearing out trash, fallen branches and invasive species such as honeysuckle.

Students all had their own reasons for volunteering at the cleanup.

“I just want a clean, perfect environment,” student Kai Lah said.

“Our goal also was to make more space so we can expand the current area of our garden. Our garden right now is about 30 by 20 feet and we want to expand it to get it up to about 50 by 60,” said Bonev.

The garden is another project that the Key Club works on. It is located in the arboretum and currently holds vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini. The Key Club then donates all of the produce to the Rockford Food Pantry. 

“Last year we donated roughly 200 pounds of vegetables to the Rockford pantry. That’s from spring throughout the summer,” said Bonev.

“I think that’s the most important thing, just seeing how it impacts the community, especially around East,” said Roundtree.

That is the Environmental Key Clubs goal. To give back to and support the environment and our community.

“Our world, our climate and our environment are facing a ton of threats,” said Andrea Wallace Noble, a volunteer from Severson Dells who helped with the arboretum cleanup. “We need those young activists and young leaders to help take charge and take better care of our environment and set a precedent going forward. So, Environmental Key Club is doing that by giving back, cleaning up the areas of the Earth that they can, contributing to science, and also just doing whatever they can to make the Earth a better place for everybody.”

The Key Club will continue keeping up with the now cleared arboretum, planting new seeds in the garden and donating food to the pantry. 

“If people enjoy community work and the environment, especially in Rockford, of course they should join the key club,” said Roundtree.