Apr 19, 2019
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Mechanical engineering student Emma Van Fossen picks up trash along Highway 168 for the "Adopt-a-Highway" volunteer clean-up day on Feb. 24, 2018. (Aly Honore/The Collegian)

These engineering students spent their weekend cleaning up a highway

With hard hats and neon vests, students from Fresno State’s Lyles College of Engineering geared up early Saturday morning to clean up one of Fresno’s major highways.  

The college took part in the “Adopt-A-Highway” program with the State of California’s Department of Transportation as a final touch to National Engineer Week, said Hernan Maldonado, director of student services for the Lyles College.

“National Engineers Week is a way to bring awareness to the community about what engineering disciplines are about and how they contribute to society in general to really make the world a better place,” Maldonado said.

Maldonado, who coordinated the event, said he contacted Caltrans for a one-day consent to clean up a portion of Highway 168 between McKinley and Shields avenues. Several engineering students met up about 7:30 a.m. Saturday before heading to the cleanup sites.

Elizabeth Yelton, a public information officer for Caltrans, said common litter found along the highways is paper, cans and even furniture.

“Anything that’s an immediate public hazard, we take care of immediately or as soon as we can get to it,” Yelton said. “Unfortunately, litter isn’t one of those top priorities because it’s not a safety concern really, it’s more of an eyesore.”

While Caltrans does have scheduled cleanups, the “Adopt-A-Highway” program is a way for more people to get involved in the efforts to clean up the community, Yelton said.

Maldonado didn’t just organize students for the cleanup efforts. He also brought two of his daughters to help. He said he was glad to represent Fresno State and give back to the local community.

“It feels good to see that there’s students interested in cleaning up the area. There’s so much plastic that we need to clean up, it’s such a huge contaminator to the environment,” Maldonado said.

The volunteers worked from 8 to 11 a.m. By the end of it, multiple bags of garbage had been filled. Students who participated in the cleanup were also entered into a raffle for a special incentive – the use of Lyles College dean Ram Nunna’s parking space for a week.

Mechanical engineering student Karina Meza was the lucky winner. Though, she said it wasn’t all about the prize.

“It seemed like a good opportunity to help out the community, especially since we take a lot from just driving here to school and whatnot, so a little helping out doesn’t hurt anyone,” Meza said.

Civil engineering student Alex Wiens said volunteering to cleanup pairs well with being an engineering student. “I think being involved in this [cleanup] really kind of shows your values as an engineer,” he said. “I want to save the environment, right? So I [majored in] engineering, but I’m also doing this as well.”

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