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Cleaning for a cause

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- "It takes one to make a movement. It takes many to make a change," says Howard High School junior Winston Clay.

Thanks to a grant, students have been able to join forces with the Lookout Mountain Conservancy in the name of beautification and helping the environment.

At the base of Lookout Mountain the students have been cleaning a dried ravine near John C. Wilson Park. Kudzu and other weeds have smothered the spot for at least 50 years, keeping native plants and flowers from blooming. The trash is even worse.

"[We] removed over 600 tires. We have removed appliances. We have removed the shells of cars," says Robyn Carlton, CEO of the Lookout Mountain Conservancy.

A new park and river walk are planned for the area, connecting to walking and hiking trails. So cleaning up the plot is extremely important. The students learn not only about the environment but about leadership, friendship, teamwork, and hard work.

"Our sweat and blood and all the stuff we're putting into it, we can look back and say we sweated for that," Clay proudly states. "We worked hard for that."

"Even though I'm only in the 9th grade, I always love to be out in nature. So helping the environment, cleaning up, and making it for people to see a change, a difference, that's just something I love to do," says freshman De'Von Sandrfur.

Groups ranging from 20 to 40 students have been clearing the ten acre area since the fall of 2012, using little more than their hands and gardening tools.

Science teacher Melissa Greever sees the good rubbing off on other students.

"When the kids hear what they've been doing, everybody comes to me and says please let me go. Please let me go," says Greever.

Friday's group is the fourth from Howard High School to step up to the challenge. The Lookout Mountain Conservancy has only a small number of staff and board members, so without the dedication of the students the work may have never begun.

"These students have been absolutely amazing," exclaims Carlton.

She says it'll take about another two years to clear the entire area. The next group of students is scheduled for April 15.

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