AHS club 2

Aspen High School junior Olivia Burkley poses next to Difficult Campground during the Guatemala Literacy Club’s trash cleanup on May 4.

AHS club

Aspen High School students Andrew Seybold and Eloise Clark are pictured on April 27 during the Guatemala Literacy Club’s trash cleanup on Snowmass Mountain.

Trash that Aspen High School students are collecting this spring from underneath ski lifts and on the side of area roads will help support the education of a Guatemalan teenager.

When the snow melts, trash that was previously hidden suddenly appears in large amounts. Over two weekends in April and May, Aspen High School’s Guatemala Literacy Club sponsored a fundraiser in which members picked up litter from under the lifts and on Independence Pass.

The club is associated with Cooperation for Education, a nonprofit agency that provides scholarships and works to break the cycle of poverty in Guatemala. The club at Aspen High raises money to fund the education of a Guatemalan resident, 17-year-old Jossoline. The club’s goal is to pay for her education through high school graduation — an opportunity many young women in Guatemala don’t receive.

In Guatemala, school is free for six years, but to continue, families must pay anywhere from $600 to $1,200 a year. By graduating from 12th grade, Jossoline will be able to earn enough money to support a family of four, according to the Cooperation for Education.

Eloise Clark brought the club to AHS three years ago, when she was a freshman. However, the project started long before that. Clark visited Guatemala with her family when she was 11 years old and met Jossoline and other children. She was inspired by their stories and wanted to help them get an education.

“We especially focus on women because they become advocates for education in their community, which is a really big deal,” Clark said.

Jossoline will graduate in 2020, the same year as Clark and some of the other members of the club. She is planning on becoming a teacher when she graduates, and the club hopes she will become a leader in her community and encourage more people to be inspired to get an education.

Olivia Burkley, an active member of the club, said she believes the group is beneficial to Aspen and the students in Guatemala.

“We are trying to make a difference outside of Aspen while helping the town,” Burkley said. “We want to help break the cycle of poverty in Guatemala through education in a sustainable way.”

In 2014, the club sponsored a similar fundraising initiative while working with the Aspen Skiing Co., picking up trash in the city’s public spaces and at the ski mountains. For every pound the club collected, they earned five cents. The group also found an engagement ring during the cleanup and received a donation for finding it, eventually earning $2,000 for the initiative.

This year, sponsors donated directly to the club. SkiCo, various local businesses and members of the community donated to the cause. The group’s goal was to raise $950 for Jossoline’s education this year, and they are only $135 short of it.

“In addition to our passion for education in Guatemala, we believe a defining aspect of our community is its pristine landscapes and clean public areas. Now more than ever, taking care of our environment is crucial to protecting our ecosystem and most importantly, our winters.” Clark said.

To donate to the Guatemala Literacy Club, visit fundly.com/literacy-club#.