By Daniel Silliman
The students surrounded the dirty diaper.
"Should I pick it up?" one asked.
"No!" said another student. "Yuck. That's like toxic waste."
The disposable diaper was in the weeds, alongside Flint River Road, on Monday, surrounded by high school students bundled in hats, coats and gloves.
The students were carrying opaque brown trash bags, and some scoured the weeds, looking for cigarette butts and candy wrappers, fast food cups, beer bottles and discarded cardboard. Four of the students, 11th-graders from Mundy's Mill High School, stood in a semi-circle, looking at the diaper.
"Why would someone even throw that out of their car?" one asked, but the others didn't know.
It's the kind of question their principal, Priscilla Adams, might be hoping they'll ask. It's the kind of lesson which might make more sense out on the side of the road, in the wind and cold, than it would inside a classroom.
Adams said 45 students volunteered to spend Monday -- a school holiday -- remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honoring his legacy by walking Flint River Road and picking up trash.
She said the school has been taking "a practical approach" to such social lessons and she hopes the experience will teach the high school students the "importance of Dr. King's commitment to his community."
Flint River Road has been identified, by the Clayton County Police Department, as one of the most crime-ridden areas in the county. A recent directed patrol through the area, was called "Operation Flushing the Flint," invoking images of a toilet. Adams and Assistant Principal Shakira Rice, who organized the project, said the police department flushed Flint River Road and now the students were there, picking up the trash.
The students, along with 10 faculty volunteers, started at about 10:30 a.m. Dropped off by a bus at the intersection of Tara Boulevard and Flint River Road, the students walked both sides of the street, picking up trash and heading west.
Khadijah Burroughs, an 11th-grader, said this wasn't her first service project. She and several other students have volunteered at a local hospital regularly, she said. She and fellow students were inspired by the late civil rights leader, to get out and help their community.
"He wanted everybody to help everybody else out," Burroughs said, "and I think that's what we're doing, when we're cleaning up the Flint River."
Adams said the service project may become an annual event.