“Less talking and more doing,” are words of wisdom from Jaime Rodriguez. Many people may spend their entire lives trying to live by this motto. Yet, Jaime a senior at Lanier High School in Austin, Texas, not only subscribes to it, but puts it into practice.

Counting the ways he models being a Keep Austin Beautiful Green Teen at his school would be exhausting. While most kids his age are navigating being a teenager, Jaime was busy contributing over 75 hours to green-themed service projects and activities last year. This commitment is outside of the Green Teens after school sessions he participates in weekly to learn about environmental issues and explore the outdoors.

For the great lengths Jaime has gone to involve the students, staff, and local community in the beautification and sustainability at Lanier High School, he has earned the title of 2016 Keep Austin Beautiful Award Winner in the Youth Achievement category. When achievements like Jaime’s go above and beyond, you must resort to a list to capture the impact. Check out the top 10 ways he is helping:

  • Create guidelines for a Recycling Relay at the school fall fest and parade.
  • Lead Lanier’s National Wildlife Federation Eco Schools meetings and projects with 100 percent attendance.
  • Run an Earth Day event at Lanier.
  • Promote Green Teens during his lunch period.
  • Make and demo a groundwater infiltration model for incoming middle school students at Lanier’s Student Choice Fair.
  • Build and care for the Green Teens native plant garden.   
  • Hand out flyers door to door to spread the word about community cleanup projects.
  • Remove 23 bags of recycling and 32 bags of trash along 6 miles of Little Walnut Creek and streets that neighbor the school.
  • Distribute and collect a campus-wide survey about the awareness of green issues.
  • Prepare and plant a monarch pollinator garden including hauling limestone rocks for the garden border and planting 50 native milkweed.

His dedication isn’t limited to this list. Green Teens sponsor, Ms. Colasanti, shared a story of how Jaime’s actions are more than acts but serve as a catalyst for all things eco at Lanier.

“Last year when I was out sick, Jaime messaged me to ask if I was coming to help with the Recycling Rangers. Recycling Rangers are comprised of Green Teens and other Lanier students who use their lunch hour on Friday’s to promote recycling. When I confirmed I would not be in that day, Jaime took the lead. That afternoon I received several messages from other teachers who Jaime had recruited to help collect compost. After rallying teachers and students, he talked to the lunch ladies and obtained a huge empty trash can where he and the others collected over 50 pounds of compost that day.”

His passion for reducing waste extends to recycling and reusing objects to give them a new life. Soliciting the assistance of his construction teacher, he collected scrap supplies from the school’s construction shop to surprise Ms. Colasanti with a custom sign holder for the fall festival.

Jaime’s commitment is a mix of drive finding opportunity. He joined the Green Teens at Lanier in the fall of 2015, because he wanted to have fun while helping the environment and getting his hands dirty. He then thrived in the Green Teens model that gives students a voice in planning and carrying out projects instead of “just talking all the time” as Jaime likes to say of other clubs.

While Jaime would be the first to give credit to others, there is never a doubt he would be the first to volunteer and the last to leave a project. Most recently, he volunteered on a Saturday to represent Green Teens as Lanier principal entered the Huston-Tillitson dumpster to celebrate the school winning a recycling challenge against Crocket High School.

Keep Austin Beautiful thanks Jaime for being a representative for not only the school, but Green Teens, and all of Austin! Jaime Rodriguez and the rest of Keep Austin Beautiful’s Annual Award Winners will be recognized at Beautify Bash, on Nov. 17 at Umlauf Sculpture Garden.

– By Monica Lopez Magee, Keep Austin Beautiful