Mavs in Action had its debut Adopt a Highway event Saturday.
Adopt a Highway is a program through the Department of Transportation that divides sections of highways and designates them to volunteer groups to clean roadside trash.
Previously, Mavs in Action, a student engagement team at Minnesota State University, Mankato worked with the city of Mankato to coordinate a cleanup of Rasmussen Woods. This project will be replacing that, according to Community Engagement Office general advisor Crystal Watts.
“We just decided to try something different this year. We’ve loved working with the city of Mankato and the Department of Natural Resources in the past, but we wanted something that we could actually put our name on and plan on consistently every year, and with Adopt a Highway now we get to do it twice a year,” said Watts.
Mavs in Action Vice President Jacob Rangitsch organized the Adopt a Highway project after getting the idea from his fraternity, Sigma Nu, which also maintains a section.
“I thought this would be a good project for Mavs in Action where we’d be able to do this every semester. I reached out to Blue Earth County and just asked them if they had any available sections that we could apply for, which they did, and now we have a highway,” Rangitsch said.
The Mavs in Action’s section is located on Highway 17 between Mankato and Madison Lake.
The group’s plan is to visit the highway section each semester. For Saturday’s volunteers, there is less trash in the fall than in the spring. According to Rangitsch, this is because the people who live alongside the highway typically clean it themselves as part of their yard work and there is no snow, which in winter covers the existing trash from view. This causes the litter to move through the ditches as it melts in the spring.
Removing existing trash before the snow comes is crucial according to Watts.
“They end up in the ditches, which end up in the waterways around farmlands and then they end up in the natural waterways through those farm lands. So it’s super important to not just focus on the big pieces of plastic, but the little ones as well,” Watts said, “So your small liquor bottles, your broken bottle caps, your shreds of plastic bags, those types of things are the things we try to look for and pick up.”
Students have varying reasons for attending volunteer events. Some, like Gency Vataoli, need to for their scholarships. Vataoli is an international student who volunteered at Adopt a Highway and does additional volunteer work. He said his favorite volunteer event was a day of packing bread for people in need.
“It feels good to give back to people and help people. It feels good,” Vataoli said.
Mavs in Action meets at 4 p.m. Thursdays. During these meetings they do a smaller service project like making cards for senior living homes and packaging laundry detergent pods to donate. They also do larger events outside the CSU like Adopt a Highway and the upcoming holiday carnival Dec. 3.
Rangitsch said the carnival will have 200-300 attendees, mostly kids and parents, with different RSOs hosting games and event tables.
Rangitsch said, “We aren’t technically an RSO, we’re kinda like a subsection of the community engagement office. We’re really just a group of students that are here to volunteer.”
Header Photo: Mavs in Action students volunteer to assess and patrol the highway to remove leftover garbage and waste. (Carly Bahr/The Reporter)
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