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How service day taught Brenau students lessons on conservation
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Katelyn Zeller, a freshman at Brenau University majoring in theatre, scrubs the spot where a no dumping sticker will be placed as a part of a service project on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. Students enrolled in Brenau's first year courses are participating in various service projects across campus as a part of Keep Brenau Kind. - photo by Austin Steele

Alexis Trammell, a freshman at Brenau University, went back in time as she placed the first adhesive marker next to a sewer grate on the Gainesville campus Wednesday, Nov. 7.

The circular marker reads, “No Dumping” across the top, and “Drains To Lake” below the image of a fish.

“It always kind of bothered me when I was little to see impure water … so when I found out we could do something about it, I thought it would be a really cool opportunity,” Trammel, a musical theater major, said.

Hundreds of Brenau freshmen wearing themed tie-dyed T-shirts got “in the field” experience during a service project day Wednesday that offered students the opportunity to learn about the work of the Salvation Army, Northeast Georgia History Center, and military veterans’ services, for example.

University officials said the service-oriented lessons were part of the school’s “Keep Brenau Kind” theme for this academic year.

Working with officials from the city of Gainesville and the nonprofit Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Trammell and dozens of her peers broke into groups with maps in hand showing where on campus sewer grates and pipes are located.

Stormwater here empties into Limestone Creek on its way to Lake Lanier.

Dale Caldwell, headwaters director at the Riverkeeper’s Gainesville office, said having students place the markers would help educate the community about the importance of stormwater drain management and the harmful impacts that dumping pesticides, litter and other chemicals or garbage into sewers can have on the lake’s health.

“That’s the really important part,” Caldwell added. “Stormwater doesn’t magically disappear.”

Nor is it treated before emptying into the lake.

“We’re pulling from our lake for our drinking water, we’re swimming in that water,” Caldwell said.

As both a tourism hub and biological lifeline for Hall County and Northeast Georgia, Lake Lanier’s protection is something Jennifer Flowers — who works as a stormwater coordinator for the city’s Department of Water Resources — said all residents have a major stake in.

Collaborating with the Riverkeeper, which has the same “end goals” to protect Lanier, is critical because “they’re great at getting people involved,” Flowers said.

Katelyn Zeller, a theater major, took it upon herself to put the elbow grease into the project. With a tough scrub brush, she’d clean an area for the marker to be placed, a spot just perfect to be noticed.

It may not sound fun, but it was the best of all options, Zeller said, and she was interested to learn about something she was unfamiliar with.

Like Zeller, Rachel Hodges, who is studying accounting, said, “I didn’t know anything about this.”

But that was only after she had just placed a marker where Zeller had cleaned, and the two walked off to the next sewer grate, ready to apply a small signal about the importance of protecting what’s underground. 

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A no dumping sticker is placed next to a drain at Brenau University as a part of a service project for a first year course on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. Students enrolled in Brenau's first year courses are participating in various service projects across campus as a part of Keep Brenau Kind. - photo by Austin Steele
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Jennifer Flowers, MS4/stormwater coordinator with the City of Gainesville, shows students a map of where to place no dumping stickers next to drains at Brenau University on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. Students enrolled in Brenau's first year courses are participating in various service projects across campus as a part of Keep Brenau Kind. - photo by Austin Steele
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