an overflowing dumpsterIt’s safe to say that everyone has been the target of a bully’s insults at some point in their lives.

This is something that Nadia Sparkes, a local student, always keeps in the back of her mind. Nadia, age 12, has recently drawn the attention of local bullies. The reason, however, might surprise you.

“I spend my afternoons picking up trash around my neighborhood and around my school,” explained Sparkes. “I like doing it because it makes me feel like I’m helping the environment and making my town even prettier.” 

Sparkes, who has been collecting refuse for the past few months, explained that she was inspired to start the after-school pastime a few months back after viewing a television program focusing on how discarded plastic negatively impacts sea turtles.

“There was a straw that got stuck in the turtle’s nose. It’s very uncomfortable for them and it makes it really hard for them the breathe,” said Sparkes. “Once I pick up the trash each day, I make sure to recycle all the plastic items so they don’t end up in the ocean.”

While Sparkes’ efforts are inspiring some children her age to do the same, others have been less than kind. A small group of her classmates, made up of three slightly older boys, have dubbed her “trash girl” as well as “trashcan kid”. They have been known to follow her around on their bikes chanting the cruel nickname.

But Sparkes keeps her head held high–and insists that the taunting does not bother her.

“I don’t let it make me sad, but I don’t get mad either. I know at some point everyone has been bullied. It only makes me stronger. Plus, I know what I’m doing is important. I won’t ever let a bully deter me. I just ignore them,” said Sparkes. “If they are making fun of someone who is helping the environment I just figure they also need a hobby.”

But while Sparkes is steadfast, the bully’s behavior has also drawn the attention of her teachers, her school administrators, and her parents. Sparke’s mother, Paula, also encourages Nadia to let the bully’s comments roll off her back.

The administration at Nadia’s school has also taken action after hearing about her story. The principal at Nadia’s school has scheduled a special assembly to discuss bullying, slated for next Friday afternoon. Attendance will be mandatory for all 1500 students.

According to, part of the  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about one out of every three U.S. students report that they have been bullied.

While it’s easy to get wrapped up in anger toward Nadia’s tormentors, our private tutors feel that we should also highlight the positive aspects of this story. Since the news broke regarding Nadia’s hobby and subsequent bullying, Nadia has become somewhat of an internet sensation. A “Team Trash Girl” Facebook page where hundreds of followers post pictures of themselves cleaning up the environment has been created in Nadia’s honor. Hopefully Nadia’s story continues to bring awareness to the issues of bullying, as well as the harmful effect of litter on the environment.