EAC SPOTLIGHT: Janitor and Environmental Activist Fernando Lucero

Ahmed Elsayyid & Environmental Action Club, Contributing Writer

The janitorial team at Morris Hills High School is comprised of the behind-the-scenes workers who are at the frontlines of our culture towards the environment. Fernando Lucero is one custodian who is particularly concerned.

“Everybody has to get involved,” Mr. Lucero said, “If I could talk to the students right now, I would tell them to save the planet and recycle.”

Mr. Lucero has been living in New Jersey since 1992 with his wife, Elvia, his seven-year-old son, Fernando, and his six-year-old daughter, Diana. Mr. Lucero has long been part of the Morris Hills community making his perspective invaluable; being a first-hand witness of our treatment toward the school’s environment, he has the best understanding of the recycling efforts at Morris Hills. “[We] throw everything mixed… in the bottles [we] throw paper and in the paper [we] throw bottles, and even garbage,” Mr. Lucero said.

That trivial toss of your empty water bottle into a nearby trash can does not go unnoticed by the people who work to make recycling a lifestyle for this school. Mr. Lucero is one such individual. “We need to improve here a little more,” he encourages, “In other places, they are doing the right thing; the people from other places get more involved in recycling. Recycling is very easy. You just have to put bottles in the bottle container.”

Mr. Lucero can see how we compare to other communities as he has spent time working for Costco, a company that is an ideal example of the right recycling culture. Working there has shown him how the right attitude towards the environment can be achieved. He described how a mindset and behavior towards recycling is inscribed in every member of their community and what happens as a result. Mr. Lucero said, “If somebody sees you [throwing material in the wrong bin], a manager is going to come to you… if he sees you throwing something that doesn’t go in the garbage, he tells you ‘this one doesn’t go there’. So you start learning there, because people get much more involved.”

It is clear how the workers at Costco are able to become environmentally conscious from their first day on the job because of the leadership there.  “They talk to you one time and then you see how [the system] works and then you see that everyone is doing it, so why would you do the opposite?” reasoned Mr. Lucero.

With a larger population, like that of a high school, a recycling policy is more difficult to enforce.  Having ample recycling bins available, as we do at Morris Hills, is crucial. Additionally, Costco isn’t run on tax dollars and it has financial incentives to recycle. At Morris Hills, our entire effort is rooted in the knowledge that recycling and being environmentally conscious is “the right thing to do”.

Leadership has always been, however, the champion of that belief, and our leaders have always been looked to for setting the right tone. A key figure of our administration, Mr. Melvin, sat down with EAC president Rohan Kapoor for a deeper insight into how our leaders have taken on the responsibility of promoting a recycling culture here at Morris Hills.

“I think that what the administration does is that we will support students, and in this case the EAC, and other endeavors that we possibly could…we lead by example as much as we can,” remarked Mr. Melvin.

Even though recycling may seem to be an individual effort, Mr. Melvin reminds us that those at the top must be the ones who give a hand to the initiatives of us students, and who are to become role models for change.

Mr. Lucero recalled the classroom of a retired Morris Hills teacher, Mr. Bobo, who embodied that example for his students, and made his classroom an model for our school to learn from. Mr. Lucero said that he “was very strict in his classroom: paper in paper, bottles in bottles.” Mr. Bobo was a long time football coach and history teacher who enforced the “right thing to do.”

These values are what motivate Mr. Lucero everyday. You may see him take trash out of the recycling. This is because he would have trouble sleeping at night had he not done the right deed towards his environment. Just as it was only a small push from the top to guide people like Mr. Lucero to making the right choices, no matter what community he may find himself in, our leaders, whether they be in their classrooms or in their administrative offices, have a responsibility to guide students to become respectful to our environment here so that they may become considerate citizens in the world beyond the walls of Morris Hills.