It was difficult for Central High School student Koon-Peng Missana, 18, to ignore the trash floating in the Cabin Branch stream near the Capitol Heights school’s athletic fields.
It was even harder to ignore the car and the refrigerator lodged in the stream, said the Accokeek resident.
Upset with the pollution, the then-junior spearheaded the school’s first Central High School Eco Club, an environmental awareness group. The club was just one example of leadership Missana was recognized for when he received the school’s “Citizenship Award” for his leadership and volunteer work during a senior awards ceremony Friday at the school prior to graduating Wednesday at Upper Marlboro’s Show Place Arena.
More than 40 students joined him in April 2011 removing tires, bottles and trash from the stream, which “did a good dent in removing the pollution,” Missana said.
“It was important because if people aren’t aware of their environment, they’ll continue to destroy it,” said 18-year-old Missana, who added Prince George’s County’s Department of Public Works removed the car after he brought it to the department’s attention.
The Central High Eco Club only added to Missana’s leadership roles at Central. For both his junior and senior year, Missana served as Central’s Student Government Association president and said he focused on strengthening school spirit.
Charles Burt, a Central High teacher and SGA adviser, remembers when Missana and his class officers uncovered an old falcon mascot costume last year in a school closet. The costume fell apart, he said.
Determined to have an active mascot again, Missana and the SGA were able to raise the $750 needed to buy a new falcon suit by the end of his junior year through ticket sales and concessions at school events. Missana even donned the mascot outfit himself for Central sporting events, Burt said.
“He made a point of making falcon pride the motto of SGA and the student body,” Burt said.
Missana said he plans on coming back to Central High during his breaks from Towson University in Towson to make sure the Eco Club stays alive. He plans on majoring in computer science, Missana said.
Burt said starting the Central High Eco Club was not only a display of citizenship and being a good role model but that it probably prevented future harm to anyone who traveled near the stream.
“Younger students could have been injured walking into some of that refuse,” Burt said.
Principal Charoscar Coleman said Missana was one of the first students he met when Coleman started as principal in the fall of 2011. He said Missana is a scholar who gets along with his classmates and school administrators and "a joy to work with" in his role as a student government president.
"He made an immediate impact on me as being thoughtful, civic minded and scholarly and having the best interest of both the school and student body as his primary interest," Coleman said.
Missana said the one thing he wants his classmates to remember is that he tried hard at what he tackled.
“Just put forth your best efforts and stand out,” Missana said.