Bellevue West ecology club faces uncertain future


Melissa Irish

Ecology Club members juniors Kat Woerner and Alexandra Janca and the club sponsor Steve Thyberg prepare to read to children at the Sarpy County Earth Day on April 30.

Melissa Irish, Features Editor

Ever since it first began, Bellevue West’s Ecology Club has been working hard to help the environment.  However, now its future is at risk as its leadership shifts.

The club is currently operated by Steve Thyberg, the husband of theatre teacher Marya Lucca-Thyberg.  He has devoted himself to the club, and has done so ever since its musical beginnings.

“I had been around the school a lot helping my wife with theatre projects and I thought since I was there I might as well try to make an impact,” Thyberg wrote in an email.  “I had written and directed a one act musical at West.  It was “Turning Green – Alex’s Adventures in Eco-land” and the main character comes back from his adventure awakened to the desperate need to work with the planet instead of against it.  And one of Alex’s last lines is ‘I’m going to start an ecology club and get this school recycling’ and that’s what I did.”

Since being founded in 2007 after similar precursors fell out, the Ecology Club has performed a large variety of activities to help the environment.

“In the first 3 years of recycling paper at Bellevue West, we recycled more than 40,000 pounds of paper – over 20 tons – and that saved over 300 trees,” Thyberg wrote in an email.   “And the paper went to a company that employs developmentally disabled workers to handle the materials.”

Other projects have been much closer to home, such as hanging bat boxes in a school parking lot and maintaining a garden on grounds.

“Even though it’s just a few times a year, we still go out and pick up trash that nobody else does,” junior Kat Woerner said.  “The janitors are always super busy with everything else, so wrappers get mixed in with the grass that they cut.   The school grounds aren’t going to look nearly as nice without the Ecology Club.”

A fellow club member hoped that they will make an impact and spread the message of protecting the environment.

“It’s really important to take care of our environment,” junior Tori Yocom said.  “I think a lot of people aren’t educated about different ways you can do that, and Ecology Club opens up different opportunities for people to learn about that.”

Statistics reveal that human activity is damaging the environment.  According to the World Wildlife Fund, between 46,000 and 58,000 thousand square miles of forest are lost each year due to deforestation.  However, the Ecology Club holds on to hope.

“I’m hoping that if people start being more aware, we can improve the environment,” junior Karissa Dymond said.  “It depends on the people.”

Thyberg agreed with her sentiment and said he believed that it is essential for the club to fulfill that role in the community.

“Our primary goal is to wake people up to the environmental destruction and motivate them to be part of the solution,” Thyberg said.

Since his wife will no longer be at the school and could act as his liaison, Thyberg may no longer be able to run the group.  Although those not employed with Bellevue Public Schools can still sponsor a club, Thyberg would not be able to communicate with the school as easily.

“My preference would be for a teacher to step forward and become the new sponsor,” Thyberg said.  “I would make way for the new vision. If there would be a way I could be helpful to the new sponsor, I would love to be involved.”

Anyone interested in sponsoring the club in the future can contact activity director Jon Mauro for more information.

“The need is only going to grow as the years go on,” Thyberg said.  “There’s so much it has done and so much it can do.”