Laughs, Learning, And Doing The Earth Good

Recycling program teaches sustainable and social skills to special education students


William Mortis and fellow CBI classmates roam the hallways of Payson High School daily to keep the campus clean and to earn points in the Pepsi Dream Machine Recycle Rally program.

William Mortis and fellow CBI classmates roam the hallways of Payson High School daily to keep the campus clean and to earn points in the Pepsi Dream Machine Recycle Rally program. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Brandon Nicholson could not hold back the chortles.

He kept giggling then laughing out loud, pointing and trying to express his excitement, but he has challenges most kids won’t ever face.

Brandon is part of the CBI (Community Based Instruction) class at Payson High School (PHS). Each day, he and his classmates, along with their teacher David Klassen walk the hallways of PHS collecting paper and plastics to recycle.

“This program teaches the students numerous things,” said Klassen “They are learning about recycling — to help the planet and to slowly close the door to not interrupt the classes — social skills.”

CBI classes are part of the special education program.

The premise behind the classes is the belief that every student, regardless of their disabilities, has the right to find their place in the community through work, recreation and independent living, according to the Web site education.com.

Klassen, who also coaches high school football, recently took over the CBI class from Ryan St. John who started the recycle program four years ago. The class teaches the students a sustainable skill, how to follow through on a project and social skills.

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Brandon Nicholson and fellow CBI classmates roam the hallways of Payson High School daily to keep the campus clean and to earn points in the Pepsi Dream Machine Recycle Rally program.

The project also pays the students. The CBI class collects points through a Pepsi program.

“We get points for scanning the plastics,” said Klassen.

The PepsiCo Web site explains its Dream Machine Recycle Rally as a recycle program schools participate in and collect points. Participating groups then redeem the points with local businesses and major retailers for things such as electronics, gift cards, music, books, videos and educational events.

The community can help the CBI class by dropping off its plastic recyclables in a box off the visitors’ parking lot near the PHS administration buildings.

Richard Alvarez and his construction arts class made a special green box with a white recycle symbol painted on the front to collect plastic for the CBI class. To discourage general trash from getting mixed with the recyclable plastics, the box has a narrow collection spigot.

While they walk the halls, Brandon jokes with fellow classmate Cobi Smith and teaching assistant Katrina Card.

“Ooll wwoomunn …” he said to Cobi.

She laughed joyfully.

“Old man,” she said back to Brandon.

“You two are funny,” said Card, a teaching assistant in the CBI class. “They call themselves old man and old woman,” she said over her shoulder as the two walked ahead.

Card plans on either becoming certified to help in special education or a medical assistant. She gets to practice real life skills helping in the CBI class.

“The teachers look at them as part of the community,” said Klassen. “If it’s raining or snowing, they will call up the classroom to ask, ‘Will you be coming by today?’”

Klassen has big plans for the CBI class. He worked in the Maryvale school district for years doing the same thing as he now does in Payson.

He hopes to start a tradition he had down the hill, every football game the CBI kids sat in the end zone to watch their football buddies.

Klassen plans on partnering up two football players per CBI student, as team buddies.

“I’m trying to get them intermixed in the community,” said Klassen.

One of the first projects he has for his football player team buddies is attending a Special Olympics track meet in the Valley at the end of April.

The team buddies will also march in the pre-Special Olympics parade on April 26 in Payson.

“It starts at 8:30 a.m. by the car dealership,” said Klassen.

He hopes the community will come out in support of the Special Olympians and bring their plastics to the high school.

At the end of the day, Brandon, Codi and other classmates all gathered around the recycle bin outside their classroom. They pour their haul in the bin before scanning it.

They love seeing how much they have gathered — Brandon the most.

He laughed uproariously as he dumped the plastic bottles into the bin and put his thumbs up.

Everyone laughed with him — it couldn’t be helped.

He makes life fun, whether working or playing.

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