This high school student is helping out to better her community

By Karen Yi | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
on April 08, 2017

 

Clean Team Ambassador volunteer and high school student Asada Rashid, 16 from Newark, walks along Bergen Street sweeping up trash.

---

NEWARK -- It's early Saturday morning and 16-year-old Asada Rashidi looks down Bergen Street and smiles. 

There's no more cigarette butts, soda cans or broken glass scattered on the sidewalk. She grips her small broom with her purple gloves and moves on, past the bus stop and mini market to continue sweeping her neighborhood. 

"I do these things to benefit my city," Rashidi, a high school junior at Bard High School Early College, said. "I don't like litter that much and I like to keep my city clean."

Rashidi spends her Saturdays volunteering with the Clean Team Ambassadors for the Bergen-Lyons-Clinton Business Improvement District to pick up trash, clean up graffiti and beautify her streets. 

"To see someone so young trying to help out in the community, that may inspire some of the other kids," said Kevin Blackwell, 58, a member of the Clean Team in the BLC Business Improvement District

Rashidi is the first student volunteer to join one of four clean teams managed by Commercial District Services LLC across business improvement districts in Newark. Business improvement districts collect special tax dollars used to improve and draw new businesses to the area.

The company says it hopes to expand internship opportunities for other students; it currently employs about 20 street cleaners across the wards. 

"The biggest impact we have is influencing the behavior of property tenants and business owners in the district," said Chris Bernardo, president of Commercial District Services. "When they see us pick up trash, their behavior starts to change."

Rashidi volunteers for two hours on Saturday, walking about 20 blocks up and down Bergen Street in the South Ward with her team of three others. She sweeps up candy wrappers, papers and broken glass into her dustbin, scanning the sidewalk for more litter. 

"When outsiders come in, they don't want to see trash," said Rashidi. She said she tells her friends to hold their trash while they're eating or wait to dispose it until they reach a garbage bin. 

"Why are you trying to make your city dirtier?" she says she asks them. 

On this Saturday, Rashidi was bundled up in at least six layers, with a blue cap over her black hijab. She says she enjoys the work except for the occasional worms when it rains (she sweeps around them) and when they stumble on dead animals. 

"It makes us jumpy," Rashidi said. A block later, a dead rat lay in the middle of the sidewalk. Rashidi and team leader Quanike Joseph immediately recoiled. 

Blackwell quickly swept the carcass into his dustpan. "I told you, I got that," he said.

Rashidi began volunteering about two months ago after she told her mom, who is the vice president of the BLC business improvement district, that she wanted to help pick up trash.

"I asked why?" Rashidi's mother, Atiya Rashidi, said. "And she said our place could look like Springfield, Summit."

Clean Team workers are out six days a week, rain or snow, covering more than two miles of the city. They'll take photos of code enforcement violations to report to the city and on average pick up more than 50 bags of trash a day. 

"We get so many compliments," Joseph, 38, said of the neighbors. "It's like we're famous."

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment