PITTSBURG — Two St. Mary’s Colgan art students from Rolanda Root’s class received a pleasant surprise recently — their artwork was selected to be in the Keep It Clean Kansas calendar. 

The Keep It Clean Kansas calendar is part of a program of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Its mission is to educate Kansans on waste reduction and other environmental issues. 

Eighth grader Hailee Varone and ninth grader Lauren Coomes’ entries were among over a thousand pieces of art. The calendar will go to schools across Kansas and public buildings. 

The students will also be going to a reception to celebrate their winnings. The reception will take place in November at the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center in Topeka.  

“I’m glad that I did [enter] because it feels good to be able to be a part of keeping Kansas a little bit cleaner,” Hailee said.

Hailee took a photograph of an open field while driving around with her father and decided to use that photograph as a reference because it looks “pretty and clean.” Her watercolor artwork of an open Kansas field will be placed inside the calendar. 

Lauren got her inspiration for her color pencil artwork from Instagram. 

“He did something kind of similar under a bridge with the grass and I kind of always thought it was a neat idea,” she said about an artist’s post. “I’m really excited that I can be on the cover and represent our school and be able to be a part of it because I’ve never won an award for my artwork before and I had no idea this was going to happen.” 

Outside of making artwork to encourage people to keep Kansas clean, the students also do their part in the community. Hailee volunteers to pick up trash in the community and Lauren helps her father pick up trash along country roads and assists her mother in collecting donations for the St. Mary’s Goodwill store. 

“There’s a lot of stuff in the news about how we need to clean up our planet or else it may die very quickly and hurt animals and people,” Hailee said. “It would just be better for the world to be a cleaner place.”

Lauren agreed and said there’s also another benefit to keeping Kansas and her community clean. 

“Sometimes when people look at the environment they think the people there are the same way, even when it’s not the case at all,” she said.