By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
High school seniors are often occupied with planning the next stage of their lives. So much anticipation and excitement leaves very little room for public service – except when it comes to Morgan Wills. The LHS senior had a passion that she saw through to fruition. Currently, thanks to Wills, LHS is recycling plastic bottles.
Wills was inspired to implement the recycling program by a speech she heard while attending a leadership conference.
“It started about a year and a half ago when I went to a camp called Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, and I went to the state level in Wichita at Wichita State University,” she said. “Then I liked it so much that I went on to the national level at George Washington State University. I listened to an amazing speaker talk about e-waste and what a huge issue it is. After that, I was just really inspired to come back and do something about it. And that is what HOBY is all about, just coming back and making a difference in your community.”
With great ideas fresh in her mind, Wills submitted an essay to the Kansas League of Municipalities – and ultimately won among high school students statewide.
“The essay was for the Kansas League of Municipalities, open to any high school student in the State of Kansas,” Wills said. “You just had to write something your community needed to be improved on. I wrote about recycling.
“In my paper, my plan was to first start with the high school and get them involved,” she explained. “Hopefully, by setting an example, when the community saw what the high school was doing, they would be excited to follow and take part.”
Wills did not stop there. She took her award winning essay and put it into practice. She credits Key Club advisor and LHS teacher Mariah Cline with taking her plan from paper to reality.
“Bins are scattered throughout the hallways, in the cafeteria and the gym and right now we are just starting with plastic bottles because that is what we feel we really need to work on – that is our major waste,” Wills said. “We are going to ask students to be respectful of the bins and put only what is supposed to be in them, just plastic. They will also have to take the lids off, because they don’t recycle the lids. It would be nice if they would rinse them out, but I don’t think that will happen.”
Where did the bins come from? Wills got local businesses involved by allowing them to sponsor a bin with their very own specific advertisements. And more business are more than welcome to join in, Wills and Cline said.
“It is not at all too late for other businesses to get involved,” Cline said. “The bins are $70 and that includes the advertisement. Without the advertisement they are $59.
“To purchase one, anyone can get a hold of me if they have questions,” she added. “My classroom phone number is 604-2291. People can send payments right here to the high school either in care of the Key Club or Morgan Wills.”
Current sponsors are Spencer Browne’s, Tan-It, Mortgages Unlimited, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Clingan Tires, Emporia State, Dr. Davis, Kiwanis, Scantlin’s Furniture and Scantlin’s Mini Storage. However, many more are invited by Wills and Cline to join in and support the cause.
As president of the Key Club, Wills will be involved in several more activities to make Liberal a better place as she finishes up her time at LHS.
“Basically, it is an organization within the school that volunteers,” Wills said. “That is strictly what they do. They just go out into the community and volunteer their time and try to improve and make a difference.”
Business sponsor Bill Scantlin was impressed with Wills’ perseverance regarding the project. After Wills and Cline visited the Kiwanis, the group and Scantlin were sold on helping out.
“She has so much enthusiasm,” he said. “She came to our Kiwanis Club and we said we needed that kind of enthusiasm in our Kiwanis Club. If we had that, we could fill that whole room up with members.”
Jim Wills of Clingan Tires is also Morgan’s father. He couldn’t be more proud of his daughter’s selfless achievement.
“We are very, very proud of her,” he said. “She has really taken the bull by the horns and spearheaded this whole project. We are just really proud of the way she put it all together and followed it through. She is just a very unique child, we are very proud of her.”
If more sponsors opt to help with the project, Cline said it may just branch out to recycling paper as well. But for now, bottles are the main focus. The Key Club would be glad to collect bottles from local businesses if need be, Cline said.
“We would love that, we would even come pick them up,” she said. “We would be glad to do that. Just give us a call.”
The recycling project is not a money maker, Cline said. The profit she said Wills only desires is a cleaner, healthier Liberal for future generations.
“The money goes straight to the bins, we don’t get a profit off of that,” Cline said. “We just want people to recycle.
“Morgan is really amazing, she has a lot of passion,” she added. “We just want to do everything we can to make it work.”