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Written by Ginger Gonzalez, Keep Ennis Beautiful

ENNIS, TX – Keep Ennis Beautiful was established through an ordinance of the Ennis City Commission in February 2018 and became an official affiliate of Keep Texas Beautiful in March 2019. As a new affiliate, our Board of Directors understood the value of getting the youth of our community involved. We kicked around lots of ideas and tried everything we could think of to beg (and flat-out bribe) students to participate. Students that were required to do community service for other organizations would show up for our events and put in their required hours. But when we would talk to them about the great things we were trying to do in our community and how they could be involved, they just didn’t seem interested. It was a little discouraging at first. Then on March 24, 2021, I received this email: “Howdy y’all. My name is Caleb Harper. I am currently a Junior at Palmer High School. I am 17 years old and just recently joined the Young Texan Ambassador program. I am reaching out to let y’all know I am here to help in any way possible. Please let me know if there is anything I can do. Thank you in advance.”

Until Caleb reached out, it had never occurred to us to look outside of our own school district for student volunteers. He was invited to our next board meeting, where he quickly impressed and endeared himself to our leadership team. He’s a well-spoken young man with big dreams, lots of energy, and an endless stream of ideas. He wasted no time at all in getting involved as a volunteer at KEB events and even hosted his own cleanup events in his hometown of Palmer. No matter who the adult on-site was, Caleb took the leadership role at every event he showed up for, handling everything from directing traffic to giving volunteers instructions to making sure we were all following safety procedures. He would also pop into the office frequently to tell me about a new idea or to remind me to follow up on something we’d spoken about. He really became my right-hand man and was a founding member of our KEB Youth Advisory Committee, helping to create the application process and Code of Ethics.

Caleb “aged out” of our Youth Advisory Committee when he graduated high school in 2022. But as a catalyst for youth involvement, his mark has been left on our community and our program. And he is still only a phone call away anytime I need help.