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Nicole Kato

Mililani Students Spend Weekend Cleaning Up Pouhala Marsh

Cadet Sgt. Darius Usborne

Cadet Sgt. Darius Usborne harvests California grass as others prepare for removal. Photo by Tim Schiller.

Three biology students at Mililani High School set aside a sunny Saturday to tackle invasive species at Pouhala Marsh in Waipahu.

Along with the school’s volunteer service learning group Hui Malama and 25 Mililani Army JROTC members, Cami Shiroma, Spencer Cole and Samantha Alvarado set their sights on completing their service learning project.

The 33 students and cadets who took part in the project had the opportunity to apply what they learned in the classroom about invasive species to actually removing the non-native plants in real life.

“Some of our cadets are in that biology class,” explained Lt. Col. (Ret.) Tim Schiller, Mililani JROTC senior Army instructor. “And Samantha Alvarado asked me if we could assist in this marsh cleanup.”

The project was turned around in two weeks, so the students and cadets did not have a lot of time to plan. But the lack of planning was not a deterrent, as the students were able to clear a large pile of California grass.

The volunteers, who started their work at 8 a.m., were briefed by Syd Kawahakui Jr. of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Forestry and Wildlife division. Kawahakui, along with Mililani High teacher and Hui Malama adviser Sandra Webb, also relayed an inspirational message on taking care of the land and loving the land they live on.

“It really gives the students the understanding of how important everything is in Hawaii as far as the culture and the habitats for the different animals and how invasive species come,” Schiller said. “Once it gets in the ground, it grows rapidly, and we want to take are of our island. Once the kids clean it up, they plant the native species that thrive, and they come back and see the results.”

While it is common for students to gain knowledge from textbooks, Mililani High School enables its students to apply what they learn.

“It gives the kids a sense of pride,” Schiller said. “That’s what’s cool about JROTC – you actually do something.”

And what the marsh cleanup volunteers have accomplished is spreading by word of mouth, which inspires other students to volunteer.

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