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DAY OF SERVICE: Western Dubuque students take on water pollution along Mississippi River

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KWWL) -- The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium hosted dozens of students Wednesday for their annual day of service.

The day of service at Western Dubuque Community High School sees students take on projects to better their community whether it be picking up trash near the city's port, making toys for the local animal shelter, etc.

“They're part of a culture at Western Dubuque Community High School where service is a priority and stewardship is service," said Jared McGovern, who curates programs like this for the museum.

An alumni of WD himself, McGovern gave the students their marching orders and supplies Wednesday morning before splitting them into groups to tackle litter in the area.

"The truth is, this is the only planet we have. So, we need to do the best we can to conserve our resources and to use them effectively so they can last as long as they can.”said Julia Lemkae, a senior at WD.

Other students, like fellow senior Ben Heiberger, say a perk of the cleanup is being able to see your impact throughout the day.

“We need to protect our environment. It's ever changing and if we can work hard to make it a safer, cleaner space, for both us and other species like fish or birds, it's just nice to have a space that's safe and clean for everyone," Heiberger said.

Students found quite a bit of plastic litter. McGovern says that's to be expected as plastic straws and cigarette butts are the most common. Roughly 1,400 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, McGovern says the problems wildlife face there also plague animals here.

“You see plastic entanglement in commercials or ads with sea life, that also happens frequently on the Mississippi River," McGovern said.

He and students hope this effort sends the message that if a group of high school students can help out, so can everyone else.

“Look behind you. I know you got the camera on me but behind you there's a group of students returning after spending an hour and a half cleaning up trash," McGovern said during the interview. "I don't know, it gives you hope. It makes this work tangible and I appreciate every single one of them. Go Bobcats! I'm proud.”

Sustainability has long been a priority for the City of Dubuque. Many of those efforts led by Mayor Roy Buol, who announced this week he will not seek reelection.

To look for more ways you can help, check out the Dubuque County Conservation Board or the city's Sustainable Dubuque group.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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