I’d like to introduce you to Malia Edelson, a student at Oakland Mills High School. Here she is on the far left:
I was intrigued to learn that this year’s Columbia Cleans event in Oakland Mills was led by teens from the OMHS Class of 2025. It turns out that Edelson came up with the idea and saw it through to completion. She did the organizational work to prepare for the event, holding virtual meetings at night and liaising between the Village Manager and the OMHS teacher advisors.
Malia was kind enough to answer some questions for me about how this all came about.
What motivated you to take on this project?
I've always cared for the environment and I thought it would be fun to try and get students more involved with the environment and a good way to get my class board to start a project.
Have you helped with the cleanup in previous years?
I have helped with the clean up before and some of the spots we would clean always had a ton of trash.
Was it easier or harder than you had thought it would be?
It was a bit harder than I thought it would be because on top of trying to get people, particularly freshmen, out to help, I had to get a lot of confirmation and permission. It was also a struggle to get release forms.
Was it hard to find young people to buy into participating in the event?
It was definitely hard to get younger people to come out because it was an early Saturday morning and it was really hard to advertise picking up trash in a way that would get teens "excited" or willing to help. One thing that we did was offer service hours for anyone who came and needed some.
How do you think older residents responded to having a high school student the lead?
I think that it may be a weird thought, to have high schoolers take the lead, because high schoolers could just plan an event and mess around the whole time. One of our sponsors wanted our SGA group to be really careful of this because if just one person came and messed around the whole time it could have ended with us not being able to hold an event like this. The clean up has been run by mainly adults in the past and I think it made a difference to have some teens help take the lead.
Did anything exceptionally interesting or humorous happen during the event?
Me and some of my friends found a sewer that was blocked by trash, leaves, and mud and while clearing it we accidentally threw mud all over our class president.
Was there anything you were particularly proud of?
We were able to pick up around 30 bags of trash and I'm really proud of that and how much work people put into this event.
Malia Edelson is a student at Oakland Mills High School and active in student government for the Class of 2025. In addition to her love of the environment, Malia plays on the Oakland Mills volleyball and girls' lacrosse teams as well as a Howard County recreational volleyball team. She also plays violin in the Oakland Mills orchestra. She loves living in Oakland Mills and exploring the natural environment around her. She also enjoys advocating for her current and former schools, including testifying to public officials in support of renovations to both Oakland Mills Middle and Oakland Mills High. Edelson hasn’t decided yet what field of study she’ll choose in college but right now she is considering a major in psychology and a minor in music.