A few weekends ago was the last service project with Serve ABQ for the season. The first event was in early Spring and with school starting just around the corner, it was time for a pause. Serve ABQ started with some UNM students getting together and picking up trash for about an hour on a Saturday. For the last one for a little bit, we headed to Rio Bravo Riverside Picnic Area.

I have gone to this site twice but there has been a few more throughout the summer that was here. My favorite part of the picnic area is how pretty it is. There are a number of walking and biking trails here that has a good amount of tree cover. It’s so pretty sometimes I forget there really is a highway right next to it. There is also a significant amount of trash as well. The parking lot and under the highway were both spots with a lot of trash. In the past few times, the group has concentrated the pick-up closer to the river. Something really awesome when I pulled up was noticing how clean those areas were. This really showed how much progress we made as a group and how even coming out only three or four times has really helped to keep the area clean.

One of the scariest things to pick up are probably needles. Throughout the season, several needles have been found. Serve ABQ always has a sharps container and we use pretty thick gloves when we pick up the trash. Especially after a concentrated spot of needles or broken glass has been picked up, it really does feel like we are making the area safer to even just walk around.

Increasing safety in the ABQ community is one of the goals for Serve ABQ. The group really focuses on sending the good energy from young professionals taking a little time out of their weekends into the community. Ultimately, we could be doing anything from food drives or community outreach. The actual means to show ABQ that their residents and even visitors from other states is fairly arbitrary. The main point is to 1) actually go out there and do something actively benefiting the community rather than just talking about it and 2) change the feeling in ABQ starting with just a few people giving back to the city.

I really love to participate in this not only because I think the mission is awesome, but I meet so many new and cool people. Throughout the summer, there were a few collaborations with the Air Force Research Laboratory summer scholars where these STEM interns came to clean up ABQ from so many States. One clean-up we had people from as far as New York and Massachusetts. I even talked to one of the participants who wanted to start something just like Serve ABQ in their own campus community (which was beyond cool).

Another really amazing thing to see happen throughout the summer was people not even associated with UNM come. We had some families who just saw our service projects online on Facebook show up with bags in hand to start making ABQ even more pretty. At some of these projects, I met UNM alumni and students that I might not have ever crossed paths with unless they came to these events. Even parents of the participants came sometimes and every time I met someone new, I always learned something novel about them or what they do.

Image from the Last Clean-Up

I really loved doing this and I hope the next season of projects start back up soon. If you ever need an excuse to get regrounded or just enjoy some outside, I highly recommend just going on a walk along the Rio Grande and bring a garbage bag to just pick a little trash up along the way!

Anna