Key Clubbers Reach New Heights with Mountaintop Trash Cleanup


West Anchorage High Key Club members August 25th at Arctic Valley Ski Area. From left to right: Sophia Wilcox, Caedmon Crowley, Ella Rush, Sofia Johansen and Mary Kim.

Zoe Springsteen, Reporter

Keeping Alaska’s wilderness pristine doesn’t just happen, it takes the effort of locals to keep it maintained and free of trash. Recently, these efforts were made by West Anchorage High School Key Club students at Arctic Valley Ski area in the popular Chugach State Park. 

On August 25th, student volunteers cleared four parking lots, two road sections, and hiking trails of all trash and debris left by the patrons of the park.

The clean-up was part of an event held in association with the 40th anniversary of Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling (ALPAR). After dinner, guests were invited to take the chairlift up the mountain, where Key Clubbers greeted them at a tent booth with ALPAR-provided coloring books, soda, cupcakes, silicone travel dog bowls and smiles.

Members Sophia Wilcox, Ella Rush, Sofia Johansen, Mary Kim, Caedmon Crowley in “Key Club” emblem.

Key Club is part of an international volunteer organization with more than 276,000 members across the globe. The student-led club allows teens to take on leadership roles and work towards bettering their community through volunteering, organization and service to the community.

These West High Key Club members were no strangers to trash cleanups, most taking part in two or more similar events prior to the Arctic Valley cleanup. The volunteers each opt for a different approach to livening the activity. 

Publicist Ella Rush and club member Sofia Johansen preferred the scenic route, taking the chairlift up, trash bags and grabbers in hand, to come down and collect waste. 

The two, also dancers together at the Alaska Dance Theater, ended the trail ballet skipping arm in arm.

Secretary Sophia Wilcox doesn’t have much preference for her trash clean-up entertainment: “The unique trash I find is entertainment enough for me. I found a mossy snow glove!” she says.

Key Club President Mary Kim puts AirPods in and listens to public news and current events podcasts like “Up First” by NPR. Kim says she sometimes “mixes it up with a little bit of ‘The Daily’ by The New York Times.” 

“I like rock while I pick up,” comments Treasurer Caedmon Crowley on his music tastes. “Alt Rock.”

During his first event as a Key Clubber, Salafa Saulala’s motivation with the collection bag and grabber, as well as his enthusiastic reception of guests at the chairlift booth, kept both West High volunteers and event attendees excited for their hikes and their future recycling plans.

As the event concluded, Key Club had collected four 10-gallon bags of waste, and celebrated by spelling out “Key Club” in an acrobatic alphabet. 

Ashley Kim, Key Club vice president says, “giving back to the community through accessible volunteering is an exciting opportunity for high school students. There are volunteer opportunities during meetings, so students don’t have to worry about transportation issues. Come join!”

Over the years, Key Club has hosted events such as road cleanups, senior home tech support, letter-writing to orphans, clean water project fundraising, and serving food at the HOPE Center Soup Kitchen. By volunteering with Key Club, students find community in a new and positive experience.

“Anyone can join,” reminds president Mary Kim. “We don’t ask a lot from students; we’re all about inclusivity.”

If you’re a West High student looking for a club with flexible time commitment but a great deal of community, public service, and inclusivity, Key Club is for you. Come to room 12 at lunch on Tuesdays.