Students at St. Ambrose Catholic School are focused on helping the earth and helping others.

They spent the month of October collecting used ink and toner printer cartridges, plastic caps and lids and aluminum can pull tabs and conducting a gently used clothing drive.

It was all done in hopes of winning the fourth annual 3R Challenge, which involves a school creating and implementing a new recycling program and showing how it promotes the three Rs of environmental stewardship — reduce, reuse and recycle.

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St. Ambrose, though, continued its recycling efforts beyond that month.

That impressed the judges of the contest and led to representatives from the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce’s recycling committee and Best Way Disposal recently visiting the Seymour school to present a $500 check.

St. Ambrose will give its winnings to Missionary Childhood Association to purchase filters to purify drinking water in Haiti.

“I just thought it was awesome because usually, when you’re going after a prize and you’re putting all of the effort into the prize, you want to win it. They knew all along they were going to give it away to someone else, and yet they tried just as hard and got as excited,” said Jenny Ault, a member of the recycling committee.

“Knowing what these kids think about recycling, for me, is huge, and then just knowing the stuff they did is going to help the community and another country is just awesome,” said Michelle Stephens, an account manager with Best Way Disposal.

Two other schools — Seymour-Redding Elementary School and St. John’s Lutheran School at Sauers — each received $250 for participating in the 3R Challenge.

Only Seymour schools were involved the first two years of the contest, but Bernie Bryant with the Seymour Department of Public Works has helped encourage other county schools to participate the past two years. This marked Best Way Disposal’s third year of sponsorship.

In October, St. Ambrose collected 11 toner and 89 ink cartridges, which were sent to Recycling Advantage in Fort Wayne to be refilled and reused.

The school received between 75 cents and $6 per cartridge, and it donated $119.61 to the Pregnancy Care Center in Seymour.

October is Respect Life Month in the Catholic church, and Catholics are encouraged to find ways to help charities that respect life from conception to natural death, said Michelle Neibert-Levine, principal of St. Ambrose.

The school also collected 61 pounds of plastic caps and lids, which Green Tree Plastics in Evansville will recycle into benches or plastic tables. St. Ambrose gave its collection to the Seymour High School Biology Club, which will have a bench made for students as part of an atrium/garden area.

Seventh-grader Camryn Reichenbacker said her grandmother came up with the idea to collect caps and lids.

“It was great to see everybody do it because we’re helping people to give them a bench to sit on,” she said. “It feels like you’re doing the right thing to help others, and if you get everybody involved, when they get older, they’ll start teaching people on and on to help.”

The 21 pounds of aluminum can pull tabs were donated to the Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis. Eighth-graders recently delivered the pull tabs when they visited the Ronald McDonald House to prepare and serve a meal to families staying there as part of a service project during National Catholic Schools Week.

Eighth-grader Emma Gillaspy said she had been to the Ronald McDonald House before, and it was good to go back and help out.

“It was really eye-opening just to see the families there, and a lot of them got to share stories, so it was really cool to be there,” she said.

It was eighth-grader Peyton Levine’s first time visiting the Ronald McDonald House.

“It’s good for us just to explore a different environment and give back to others,” she said.

The clothing drive was conducted the last week of October, and items were donated to Goodwill of Southern Indiana to be sold in stores with proceeds benefiting the various services Goodwill provides.

St. Ambrose also helped Anchor House Family Assistance Center in Seymour by generating Goodwill vouchers designated to families staying at the homeless shelter.

St. Ambrose was inspired to donate its contest winnings to Missionary Childhood Association after a missionary nun, Sister Loretto Emenogu, visited the school Sept. 25.

Seventh-grader Avery Ragon said she remembers the video showing water contamination in Haiti.

“There were a lot of bugs in the water, and (people) are getting sick and diseases,” she said. “You don’t think about it until you see it.”

Even though the 3R Challenge was a monthlong contest, Neibert-Levine said students have continued to collect cartridges, caps, lids and pull tabs.

Organizers of the contest said it’s great to see the students remain dedicated to recycling.

“If we can recycle something and not have to use the resources to make it new, that makes a difference,” Bryant said.

“The future of our community rests on the kids that are in the community,” Ault said.

“To teach them how to reduce, reuse and recycle, which is the essence of the 3R Challenge, is educating them, and they take it home to their parents. We hope that these kids will teach their parents how to recycle if they are not already.”

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.