Christian: Honoring the heroes of the hallways in Colorado
When you see a problem in your home, in your school, or in your community, what do you do? When Christian Dyson noticed that students were leaving messes in his school hallways, he saw an opportunity to act. Rather than letting the mess go ignored, he was determined to build relationships between students, staff, and custodians.
When Christian transitioned from homeschooling to a public high school, he was struck by how the students would litter without considering who would have to clean it up. Quickly, he internalized a disconnect between students and school staff. Christian saw this problem as an opportunity to build mutual respect and dignity across the campus.
One day after school, Christian observed a gentleman sweeping the school grounds. The gentleman looked content, passionate, and driven, so Christian asked him about his role at the school. During their conversation, Christian learned that this gentleman was a custodian and that he cared deeply for the school and its students.
After this encounter, when Christian saw messes at the school, he started to conceptualize a plan to pick up every piece of trash and take every tray back to the cafeteria by himself. “And then I realized there's power in a group. There's power in shared vision.” He teamed up with a service club at his school, otherwise known as Key Club, to launch the Custodian Service Initiative (CSI).
CSI seeks to lessen apathy and promote interconnectedness between students, staff, and custodians by running programs to promote energy conservation, recycling programs, and ongoing appreciation of staff. For example, each year they host a march to recognize and appreciate their custodians. They also promote daily awareness and student engagement by encouraging students to take care of the messes in hallways and trays at lunch. Annually, they host a pancake luncheon to promote community and celebration.
In Christian’s own words, “Every day we probably see a mess in the hallways or something that someone else is cleaning up. Why not say, if not me, then who? Instead of saying ‘I'm sure someone else will pick that up,’ or ‘I bet someone's here in this school hired to do exactly that.’ What better opportunity than for me to say, ‘Oh, I'll take that on. I would love to take that on,’ and so really there's no limit on who can be involved in an initiative like this.”
Christian’s team extends beyond his Key Club and other leaders of the CSI. “I was very connected to my family...I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for their support and their love in every step in the journey...Since I was a little kid, just believing in me. Just believing in me and reminding me that I'm gonna change the world someday.” Christian internalized the close-knit relationships he has at home and brought this mentality to his school.
CSI today has the unconditional support of teachers, school leaders, staff and the students. Now graduated, Christian has passed on CSI to another group of changemakers to foster community across the school.
Christian’s journey didn’t start with CSI and it won’t stop there either. “At the earliest stage of my life I realized I am a changemaker. We all are. Changemaking is an ongoing commitment. It's something I dedicate myself to.”