R.A. Long Key Club members display a week's worth of recyclables last week at the high school. In front, around the bins from left: Jessica Reyna in striped sweater, Allison Anderson, Ashlee Meloche and Viktoria Aguilar; in back, from left: club president Frank Nelson, Isaiah Salcido, Brittany Bischoff, Rose Edwards, Wayne Ogle and directly in front of him president-elect Victoria Reinke; founding member Frankie Yates, adviser Gerri Schooling, Frances Rein, Austin Brown, Connor Jolly, Rachel Gordon, adviser Jill Diehl and Caleena Phillips. Bill Wagner / The Daily News

They sweat through the Relay for Life and get doused launching a cardboard boat at Go 4th, but R.A. Long's Key Club has never taken on a project as trashy as their latest brainchild.

For the first time at the high school, paper, aluminum cans and bottles are being recycled, said Victoria Reinke, a junior and the president-elect of the 24-member club.

"We partnered with the City of Longview," Reinke said, "and they donated 50 containers and four of the large ones for outside."

Club members labeled the blue containers and put a letter in every teacher's mail box about collecting them," which they do on a rotating schedule, she said, paying visits to academic departments to ferry paper to the outdoor receptacles.

Cans and bottles must be taken in personal vehicles to Waste Control, Reinke said, after bottles get rinsed out by the Life Skills class.

According to a scan of other schools by the Longview School District, RAL is the first school to recycle at this level, but Mark Morris High is close behind, with paper recycling run by a leadership class and bins on the way from the City if Longiew.

At RAL, the after-school project is a win-win squared, the teens said.

First, it meets the primary club goal of community service, said club president Frank Nelson. "We're the junior affiliate of Kiwanis, and we work with them as a service organization."

Ashlee Meloche, 17, said club projects "are extra-curricular activities that demonstrate teamwork and leadership, the ability to show up for things."

Gerri Schooling, one of the club's three advisors, said the recycling project makes money in two ways. Recycled cans raise money, and the project "reduces the school's waste bills -- that's money that goes back into education."

Finally, Key Club members "get involved in the community," said Wayne Ogle, 16, by raising money for cancer research and other causes.

The club's Relay for Life campaign, which includes selling bracelets, cotton candy and a vampire-themed basket, has special meaning. Former club advisor Alice Robertson died of breast cancer.

That's why their Relay name is "Team Alice," said founding member Frankie Yates, 17.

"She was a happy-go-lucky person," Nelson added.

This year for Relay, they said, they want to raise $1,500, and they're well on their way.

As they plan for the district convention and brainstorm ways to get T-shirt fabric on sale, the group's cohesion and problem-solving skills sound like any "grown-up" service club. In fact, Key Club offers seamless transition into lifelong volunteer service, said Rachel Gordon, who as editor maintains the club's Facebook page. "There are college groups connected to Kiwanis, called Circle K," said Gordon, an 18-year-old senior at RAL.

Although RAL's club members typically take on a new project each month, they said recycling will be a keeper. They're even thinking of adding composting. Now that's talkin' trash.


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