Citizen of the Week: Elle Shirah enlists classmates in conservation causes

For Earth Day, Southeast Whitfield High School senior Elle Shirah organized several of her classmates for a highway cleanup near her school, and she hopes future students will follow the example by adopting sections of road, then keeping them clean.

Shirah's effort came as no surprise to those who know her, like Alison Hunt, a science teacher at the school, since Shirah is devoted to saving the environment.

"Most kids are satisfied with just a grade, but Elle does so much more, and that's rare for a high school student," Hunt said. "She's just an awesome kid."

A couple of years ago, Shirah was looking to do more for the environment locally, so she collaborated with Mario Alfaro, a fellow member of Southeast's class of 2021 who is likewise concerned about the environment, and Hunt on a project to create a garden outside the school, near the tennis courts.

"It had to be submitted by a teacher, so I put my name on it, but Elle did all the work" for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority School Betterment Grant, Hunt said. "She did all the research, talked to numerous people, came up with a budget, and wrote the proposal."

The school received the $500 grant and started a garden, which will likely evolve into an orchard, perhaps an apple orchard, Hunt said. Shirah also persuaded fellow students to spend weeks working in the burgeoning garden.

Shirah is a regular at the annual Conasauga River Watershed Cleanup, and she tries to recruit others to join her, Hunt said. "You can only do what you can do," but Shirah models behavior that "hopefully will inspire a lot of other people."

Her devotion to environmental causes has won over Hunt, she said.

"I find my younger self in Elle in a lot of ways — (especially) her love for science, nature and the environment — and anything she wants to do, I'll be right there with her."

For her commitment to protecting the health of the environment and for being a leader among her peers, the Daily Citizen-News names Elle Shirah Citizen of the Week.

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