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Student Club Spotlight: Stephen Decatur High School

Q: How and when did your Student Club form?
We formed in 2018 when some seniors at our school wanted to start an environmental club. 
Q: Why did you want to start a Surfrider Student Club?
Students in the building wanted to start an environmental club. We decided to partner with the Surfrider Foundation due to their rich history of environmental stewardship. We also wanted a non-profit that would work with us and guide us through activities and events. 
Q: What are some environmental issues that are affecting your local community?
We are on Maryland’s coast. The county that our school is located in is the only county that borders the Atlantic Ocean — giving us many important opportunities to fight the good fight. We have a few significant issues facing our community right now. The one that is always at the forefront is pollution. Since we live close to Ocean City, a popular tourist destination, we are constantly fighting trash and other forms of land and water pollution. We could choose any random day from May 1 - October 1 and get buckets and buckets of trash off of the beach and boardwalk. This may be due to trash being inadvertently blown from trashcans or out of trucks (I always like to think people don’t litter on purpose), but it’s always there regardless. The second issue we are currently working on is making Ocean City a zero-waste town. This takes a lot of effort from multiple environmental agencies, but if we all work together, we hope to eventually get there. The effort we put into this task includes volunteering at eco-friendly events, such as Bike Fest, Oceans Calling, and Maryland Coastal Bays: Bay Day, and working on Surfrider Foundation campaigns, such as Ocean Friendly Restaurants. 

Stephen Decatur High School Surfrider Club student receiving an award
Q: What Surfrider projects have your club worked on?
Last year, and so far this year, our club has worked on beach cleanups, planned an Earth Week celebration for our school, sponsored the movie “Microplastic Madness” for our science classes to watch, and participated in Hill Day in Washington, D.C. We have also helped other local environmental agencies in their efforts to keep our area pollution-free. 

Q: Are there any specific project's that your club has worked on that have benefited your community?
Our club has completed many cleanups around our area.  We like to concentrate on beach cleanups but we have also helped at cleanups in the town of Berlin and other highly polluted streets near our high school. We have also met elementary school groups on site of their beach cleanup field trips to discuss the most collected clean-up items and the importance of keeping our beaches and ocean clean from trash. 

Stephen Decatur High School Surfrider Club holding trash that they collected at a Surfrider beach cleanup
Q: What has been the highlight of your club's Surfrider experience?
The highlight each year is being one of the few clubs to participate in Hill Day. Each year, for the past four years, we have taken six club members to advocate for ocean protections. They are the only ones in the entire school who have been a part of the lobbying process, and all of them walk away with a sense of purpose and renewed love for the environment. 

Q: Do you have any personal experiences or campaigns/issues that your club is passionate about where the social justice and environmental movements have intersected?
Our club is extremely passionate about Ocean City, Berlin, and Stephen Decatur High School working toward becoming Zero Waste. It is essential to keep as much trash as possible out of the waste stream in Ocean City since the town ships its trash with Covanta, a company that takes the trash to be “burned for fuel” in an urban area outside of Philadelphia. This area now has a higher incidence of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Working with organizations to recycle and compost trash from OC has proven very effective and worthwhile.  

Stephen Decatur High School Surfrider Club holding trash that they collected at a Surfrider beach cleanup
Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?
The most important thing we tell others about Surfrider is that the organization truly cares about our coastlines. Everything we do reflects the organization’s love for our oceans, beaches, and waterways. 
Q: Why is being a part of the Surfrider ocean conservation community important to your club?
Since we are the only Maryland county bordering the Atlantic Ocean, conservation is extremely important to our school and community. We do everything we can to keep our coastline as pristine as possible. 
Q: Anything else? 
This year, we were recipients of the Baltimore Ravens’ Honor Rows Program. During each home game, the Ravens select service organizations to be recognized during the game. This year, they chose the Stephen Decatur High School Surfrider Club. The recognition included 50 free tickets to the game, a jumbotron spotlight of our group, and pre-game warmup time on the field.

Stephen Decatur High School Surfrider Club