's about saving more than the planet.'s about saving more than the planet.

Recycling cans may look like a simple task with a small environmental impact, but we know the bigger impact it has on the youth we serve at CIRCLE Academy-Vermilion. 

When Cunningham Children's Home's CIRCLE Academy-Vermilion students returned to school in January, Assistant Principal Paula Dowling introduced a new aluminum can recycling program. As a teacher in her previous school district, Paula successfully taught youth responsibility and job skills through a similar program. 

"Rural Rossville is limited when it comes to job training for our kids. We knew we needed to create our own work experiences," Paula said. 

The school's program benefits our kids and the Rossville community- neither had a recycling program before this year. 

Daniel, a sophomore at CIRCLE-Vermilion, has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. Being a part of the recycling team has increased Daniel's confidence. He looks forward to performing his role on the recycling team each week.

Daniel's job is to rinse each can and remove the pull tabs before they go on to be crushed. The tabs benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities, much the same way our youth benefit from General Mills Box Tops for Education. 

The kids take pride in being able to give back through their work. "I'm helping others when I pull off these tabs," Daniel said with a smile. 

Students are encouraged to submit proposals to determine how the proceeds from the recycling program should be used. Several are under consideration, each with unique merit as something fun for the kids but carrying therapeutic benefits as well. A boxing speed bag would provide a coping mechanism for students who need to release aggression. Weight lifting equipment encourages healthy exercise and eating. Playing ping pong can help with self-regulation, so a new game table has been proposed.

"The students know we can't purchase all of these things, but they are gaining a sense of belonging by having the opportunity to come together and work for the things they want for their school." said Paula. 

Friends of Cunningham Children's Home can be a part of the recycling program, too. How? Our youth need more cans to recycle. Recycling receptacles are located at CIRCLE-Vermilion and Mustard Seed Christian Daycare, both in Rossville and at Cunningham's Spiritual Life Center in Urbana. Please note that only cans are accepted not glass or plastic, and can be dropped off Monday- Friday between the hours of 8-5 pm. 

Once the rinsing is completed, Daniel delivers the cans to the next station, the crushing station. As he pulls up his wet sleeves and picks up the tub, Teacher Assistant Amanda leans over, "You did a great job today, Daniel."

"I know," he says with a grin.