Courtesy of Lisa Heller

Trash Into Cash

      When Lisa Heller jumped into a dumpster on campus to search for a lost ring, she had no idea of the treasure she was about to uncover. In the end-of-semester rush of clearing out residence halls, students had left behind more than just old term papers and empty pizza boxes. Mixed in with the garbage, Heller found everything from canned and packaged food items, clothing, and furniture, to a cigar box full of what turned out to be rare and valuable postage stamps. “I started inventing scenarios for how this could happen,” says Heller, who teaches rhetoric and coaches the debate team at Bates College in Maine, and will pursue a doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh this fall. “I thought it must have been a mistake that these things were left for trash.”
     But Heller realized it wasn’t a mistake—that, in fact, it happens at college campuses across the country every spring. “Our culture is so wasteful,” she says. “Although the idea of recycling gets a lot of attention, it’s the least effective way of dealing with our wastefulness. We need to look for more ways to reduce and reuse.”
      After completing a master’s degree in speech communication from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, Heller took a job at the University of Richmond in Virginia. It was there that she began looking for ways to reduce campus waste. She still wasn’t thinking big, but—as someone with an interest in environmental studies and environmental communications—she wanted to at least make a small difference. She began that spring by filling her Honda Civic with as many discarded goods as she could and bringing them home for a yard sale. Her efforts grew each year, finally resulting in Dump and Run—a business that works to turn campus “trash into cash” for nonprofit organizations. Proceeds from sales benefit a charity or cause selected by volunteers, and also go back into operating costs.
     Throughout the year, Heller spends about 15 hours a week running the company. Dump and Run (dumpandrun.org) worked with 8 to 10 schools this past spring, and is reviewing inquiries from more than 50 other schools—including SU—for next year. “When we come to Syracuse, I’m hoping some generous corporate sponsor will lend us, say, an airplane hangar,” she says.

—Amy Shires

Joe Lawton

 

For Children’s Sake

Charmane Wong understands how important it is for children to get a good start in life. And as director of administration for the nine early childhood education programs at Graham-Windham Services to Families and Children in New York City, she’s doing all she can to ensure they do. “The best part of the job for me is seeing children and staff involved in the learning process, and staff working with parents to extend that learning beyond the classroom,” she says. “When I go into the classroom, I am enriched by the variety of learning experiences we offer that are relevant to the development of a healthy child.”
      The seeds of Wong’s interest in working with children and families were planted at SU, where she enrolled in a special interdisciplinary program that allowed her to choose concentrations in social work and early childhood education. She received a bachelor’s degree in speech communication from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and later earned a law degree at West Virginia University. After law school she practiced with Bronx Legal Services and directed the Youth Advocacy Project.
     Wong joined Graham-Windham in 1995 as director of Harlem Initiatives, a division that focuses on anti-eviction cases and helping women make the transition from welfare to work. Since the program began, she has helped 25 women leave public assistance. “Trying to move from welfare to work in an early childhood setting is challenging and demanding,” Wong says. “These women have shown tremendous strength in successfully making the transition. Children in their care have learned much about self-esteem and building on individual strength."

—Kelly Homan Rodoski


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