For Preeti Sharma, co-captain of Centennial’s Paint the Town Green event at Woodbine Beach, the 50th anniversary celebration is a fitting culmination of the school’s environmental initiatives.
“Every year, around spring-cleaning time, we do a little clean-up at all the campuses…they started with about 10-15 people and then grew to about 300-400 people, now they’ve taken it to another level,” she said. Sharma has been a part of these small events since 2004, but she said that this is the only time she’s organized such a large group of people.
The event this year was also a first for Centennial, with its students and faculty given a day off and a choice to go clean up parks, beaches and other natural habitats. According to Sharma, approximately 9000 staff and students registered across Toronto, with her location hosting about 500 participants.
While the focus was primarily on cleaning up the area, Sharma described other planned activities, like a photography scavenger hunt and an open forum for discussion on environmental topics like vegetarianism and park regulations.
Sophie Hamr, a first-year professional writing student at Centennial’s Story Arts Centre, missed these things after straying too far with her friends.
“I teamed up with my pal Adam and we took a garbage bag, put on gloves, and walked over to the rocks by the shore, which seems to be a popular spot for eating and drinking by the water, so there was lots of garbage,” Hamr said.
While she did find some “gross” items like a syringe and empty liquor bottles, Hamr expressed satisfaction with what she accomplished. “The only thing worse than picking it up is leaving it there knowing someone could encounter it by accident.”
Robert Hurtubise, Start Smart coordinator at Centennial’s Centre for Students with Disabilities, also had a good experience.
“I do enjoy spending a lot of time outside and being somebody who lives in the east end of Toronto, I do enjoy, especially during the summer, coming down to Woodbine Beach Park,” Hurtubise said. “So to have the opportunity to participate in a sort of beautifying of the park experience was something I was interested in.”
While this is Hurtubise’s first clean-up event, the “beautiful” day and the chance to connect with colleagues and students outside of the school left him feeling positive.
“I think it’s important for students and employees of the college to get involved in the Greater Toronto and Greater Scarborough communities,” he said. “It’s easy to be insulated in your office or in the library or in classrooms, but the college is an integral part of these communities and it’s important for us to get out and see just how the college interacts with the broader community.”