March 23, 2006
Pierce Co. -- Young people get asked frequently: What do you want to be when you grow up? It was a simple question to answer years ago when an employee stuck with the same employer for his career.
But much has changed. Research shows young people now will have from three to five careers and between 10 and 12 jobs during their working lives.
“What we’re going to do, discussing what you want to be when you grow up,” says Susan Taylor, a first grader teacher at Patterson Elementary School, about 20 miles east of Waycross.
Those discussions will happen many times in the lives of the first graders. Some of the students already have an idea. “A cheerleader,” says Ragen Taylor.
“Lawyer,” says Daniel Bennett III, and no wonder. His father is one. Another first grader counts on being an emergency medical technician. “A person who doctors you and all,” says Macy Eason.
Of course, the professional athlete’s dream. “Football player,” says Tray Williams with a big smile.
Another student decided to do more than dream about a profession. “I want to be a man that picks up trash,” says Hunter Dean.
Don’t laugh. Hunter already gets real-world experience. To him, a nice day sounds rather dirty. “I got it,” shouted Hunter as he picks up partially buried glass bottle filled with water while using his special tool.
He doesn’t touch the litter. “I like to pick up litter,” says Hunter as he walks down a sandy, rural road well off the beaten path with his mom and dad.
His dad, Chuck Dean, holds a big orange plastic garbage bag. His mom, Jennifer Dean, uses one of the special pick-up tools like Hunter’s. “People litter a lot,” says Hunter.
The roadside becomes a huge trash can, with bottles, cans and worn out tires that could have snakes living inside. Hunter’s dad checks the tire before he picks it up, and they puts it closer to the road so he can easily drive by and carry it to a local disposal site.
The six year-old never picks up trash alone. “He’s with an adult. So, he is supervised,” says his mom.
At least one time a week for the past three months Hunter gets out with his family to pick up trash. Sometimes they do it twice a week. Why would a first grader have such a passion about a job at such a young age? “It hurts our animals. They will eat it and then they will die,” says Hunter as he picks up a Styrofoam cup and drops it in the orange bag.
His concern for wildlife and the environment makes his parents proud. “You can’t get adults to come out and do what a six year-old child is out here doing, picking up trash in his community, trying to beautify his community, and it’s the adults who are throwing out the trash. So, who is more of the adult here?” asks his dad.
Hunter’s mom likes his community spirit. “Anything he can do for the community is great. He’s having fun and as long as he’s having fun, we’ll let him do it,” says Jennifer.
They filled a garbage bag in 30 minutes, and sadly, in two days or less the roadside will look as if Hunter had never cleaned it up. He fights a losing battle where he thinks more about making his world a better place, and whose caring amounts to much more than child’s play.
The school published a book about what the students said they wanted to be when they grew up, and in about 20 years, teachers plan to see what careers the young people finally chose.