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SCC Honor Society Hosts River Cleanup


Surry Community College’s Alpha Xi Tau Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society recently partnered with Mount Airy Parks and Recreation to clean a two-mile stretch of the Ararat River. Starting at Riverside Park, chapter members Camille Jimenez and Veronika Dimeo, as well as PTK co-advisor, Dr. Kathleen Fowler followed the Greenway south, collecting 68 pounds of litter.

Most of the litter consisted of single-use plastics associated with recreational enjoyment of the park and the river – plastic bags, drink bottles, food wrappers, containers, etc. However, they also pulled a broken mountain bike out of the water. “That took a group effort,” stated Fowler.

image of two people with a bicycle
PTK Chapter member Veronika Dimeo and Co-Advisor Dr. Kathleen Fowler pull a bicycle out of the Ararat River.

PTK decided to host the river cleanup as a service project when PTK member Samantha King studied how single-use plastic affects aquatic animals. Improperly discarded plastic washes downstream and gets swept out to sea where it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces due to wave action and UV sunlight. These plastic fragments can then be ingested by fish and other animals such as sea turtles.

“A common practice in animal rescues is measuring the amount of plastic they have consumed. Currently, around 34 percent of leatherback sea turtles found dead have consumed some type of plastic,” King said.

Plastic pollution is also leading to bleached corals and algae blooms; it is even showing up in human food and drinking water.

“Through this project, our chapter members learned that single-use plastic makes up the majority of recreational pollution along our waterways,” stated Fowler. “PTK members are beginning to think about more eco-friendly solutions such as reusable water bottles and grocery bags.”

Phi Theta Kappa is the premier two-year college honor society recognizing the academic achievement of students and helping them to grow as scholars and leaders. The society is made up of more than 3.5 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in 11 nations.

image of a bicycle in water
A river cleanup can be full of surprises.

For more information about Phi Theta Kappa and its projects, contact PTK’s faculty advisors, Dr. Kathleen Fowler at 336-386-3560 or or Kayla Forrest at 336-386-3315 or Follow the local chapter on Facebook @surryPhiThetaKappa or go to

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