What started out as a question posed to Las Animas eight graders morphed into a plan of action to dedicate one afternoon to cleaning up a portion of Las Animas.

Executive director of the Bent County Development Foundation Sammie George along with Jody Sniff asked the eighth grade class, what project can you come up with that would spur revitalization in Las Animas?

They asked this question as part of a real world problem solving class, which was originally meant to present youth with ‘real world’ scenarios and have them use critical thinking and other skills to solve the problem. George said that the students could have just answered the question and moved on, however, a group of 20 students decided to implement their answer into action.

“In Dec. during our advisory time we all went downtown and everyone walked around to see what needed to be cleaned up and so we found out that the street 6th and Carson needed to be cleaned the most,” eight grade student Chanel LaBarge said.

Other ideas considered by the group included getting local artists to paint murals around the city or building a movie theater or arcade for kids to hang out at.

“I think building something because that's mainly what we talked about, like something for kids our age,” eight grade student Grace Gardner said.

They eventually would decide on pursuing the clean-up day and began planning the event out. Which included splitting up into groups, budgeting, collaborating with local partners, graphic designing, building presentations and more. All of which they did mostly on their own with guidance from George and Sniff.

“This entire project has been created, planned, organized and implemented by those who chose to continue to participate in the project,” George said.

Funding for the project was also secured by students including a $500 donation from the City of Las Animas which was given to the group after a presentation by student Sakura Cole to the city council. Other community partners include Las Animas/Bent County Chamber of Commerce who will provide bonus bucks for the sidewalk chalk art contest, Las Animas Lions Club who are helping provide funding for class event t-shirts and the Bent County Development Foundation who are also helping fund the class event t-shirts and wrote a grant to match the cities donation.

But outreach didn’t stop there because George indicated that two students Makayla Hall and Jazmine Alvarado set out to involve the business that are located on the street by asking them to stay open during the event.

“So, we’re hoping that not only are we bringing people down for a clean-up but while they’re down there maybe they’ll go into one of the shops,” George said.

The event is scheduled to take place on Feb. 29, if weather permits and registration to volunteer will be located at the Southeast corner of the intersection of Carson Ave and 6th street. The cleanup is scheduled to take place between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. and during the cleanup that portion of the street will be shut down.

There will also be a sidewalk chalk art contest which is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. and end around 2 p.m. Chalk will be provided to participants and anyone is invited to participate in the contest. The community will be the judge of the art and those who place in the top three will receive bonus bucks provided by the chamber of commerce.

George also said that lunch will be provided to the first 250 volunteers, including students that register and help clean up. Interested parties will be required to register at the corner of the intersection at Carson Ave and 6th street to receive a lunch ticket.

jconlan@ljtdmail.com