August 2007

The Lesson of a Lifetime

Thanks to PS 57 cleanup program, teens give back to
the community and learn respect for nature through beautification of Eibs Pond Park

Thursday, August 17, 2006


While most of Abdulahi Osman's friends are taking summer trips or playing basketball, the 14-year-old Clifton resident helps clean up and maintain nearby Eibs Pond Park.

"It's fora good cause. I can do a lot on my free time by coming here to help," said Abdulahi yesterday as he revved up a weed-whacker at the 17-acre wetland.

Abdulahi is a second-year volunteer in the Eibs Pond Education Program, a non-profit organization headed and coordinated by PS 57 science teacher Patricia Lockhart.

The program brings students and neighborhood children into the park for outdoor science education and to spruce up the area by removing weeds, creating wood-chip paths, carting off debris, planting flowers and keeping PS 57's schoolyard tidy.

"The children have really taken ownership of the community they live in," said Ms. Lockhart, a 2001 Advance Woman of Achievement.

She said the program teaches the youngsters many good lessons. "It will help them in life, as far as having [a] good work ethic, community responsibility and respect for nature and the environment."

The student participants must remain in good academic standing. For six summer weeks, they work three to six hours a day, three days a week. Teens receive a small stipend.

For Rudy Hemmans, 17, being part of the program for the third straight year is all about giving back to his community.

"It's good to help out and it's for our neighborhood," said the New Dorp High School student. " As long as we can help clean up the neighborhood, it's no problem."

Fourteen-year-old Abdul Hafiz has been in the program since second grade and takes great pride in it.

Last year, the North Shore student was one of six finalists in the Volvo for Life awards -- a hometown-hero contest that honors children who work to improve safety, quality of life and the environment in their communities. He spent a large part of the $25,000 grant he received to purchase equipment for the education program and his alma mater, PS 57.

"It makes me feel good to help out in the community in a way that people don't usually do," said Abdul, who was joined yesterday by his older brother, Mohammed, 16, a member of the cleanup program for six years.

A volunteer from age 7, Devon Walton, 18, is happy to show up each day for work.

"It's a new adventure, new tasks, and it's not like you have to do the same thing every time and get bored," the Tottenville High School student said. Should a piece of machinery malfunction, Devon is Johnny-on-the-spot.

"I feel like I am giving back to my community," he said.

Sametta M. Thompson is a news reporter for the Advance. She may be reached at

2006 Staten Island Advance