SYKESVILLE - When senior Shannon Gerhold wrote a letter to Carroll Superintendent R. Edward Shilling to voice her concerns about the environment, she had no notion that her recycling ideas would reach state levels.
"We were not prepared for this," said the 17-year-old, addressing students, teachers, and school and community officials who gathered Thursday to welcome Gov. William Donald Schaefer to South Carroll High, where he kicked off a recycling program for some of the state's high schools.
"It's well worth the effort we've put forward," Gerhold added.
The effort -- the collection of paper and aluminum cans for recycling -- did not go unnoticed by the state, which has expanded the program to include plastic, glass and newspapers. Bins, donated by Giant Food Co., will be placed one week a month at South Carroll and Westminster high schools, as well as other schools statewide.
"Recycling is something everyone can do to help the environment," Schaefer said in announcing the program. "The challenge we face is to make it easy for people to recycle their cans, bottles and plastic, just as they now can do at South Carroll High School."
The program complements a new state law that requires that students learn environmental education across the entire curriculum, kindergarten through 12th grade, instead of just in science and ecology classes.
The South Carroll program began last spring with students writing letters to government officials as part of an Earth Week exercise in a chemistry class. Gerhold, of Taylorsville, persuaded school officials to begin collecting papers and aluminum cans.
Although pleased by the state's response, she said, "It's a good idea but not ideal. It's just once a week. We've had great response here."
The response was evident during Schaefer's visit, with shades of Earth Week and signs such as "The World is in our hands, don't let it slip away."
South Carroll students Bill Etter and Jennifer Delatush, backed by a choir of students, sang their composition, "Save The World," a plea to save the environment.
The governor's message to the student body: "Think about what you can do. It's mostly young people who understand what it's all about.
Concentrate on what you can do for the environment."
He warned students that blaming other generations for the environmental mess was a waste of time.
Although a variety of speakers welcomed Schaefer and lauded South Carroll and Westminster students for their recycling efforts, Westminster High School senior Aaron Brondyke sounded a more critical note.
Brondyke, president of Westminster's Campion Conservation Club, said the state has failed to take an active leadership role in the environmental movement. He said the state should have mandatory recycling and promote less use of cars and trucks.
"All we need and ask for is leadership," Brondyke said.