One Man’s Trash…

Gunn High School students Keshav Nand and Jerry Liu in front of their Idea Challenge creation.
Gunn High School students Keshav Nand and Jerry Liu in front of their Idea Challenge creation.

For the past two weeks, an unusual sculpture has graced the lobby of the Goldman Sports & Wellness Complex at the Oshman Family JCC. It is bright blue and green and is made of…what is that? Kat Korhonen, OFJCC Customer Service Desk Representative says, “People are asking what the sculpture is in a positive way and are impressed by it. I think they are impressed with the innovation more than anything else.” Behind the sculpture is a team of very motivated and very creative high school students. Meet Jerry Liu, 17, a senior at Gunn High School and member of DECA Business Club.

OFJCC: What was the project you were working on?

Jerry Liu (JL): As a member of the DECA (Distributive Educational Centers of America) Business Club, I decided to take part in the 2016 DECA Idea Challenge, where students are asked to come up with a new use for a common household item. This year, the common household item was chosen to be a water bottle. Our idea was to make chandeliers from the water bottle plastic. I worked with Keshav Nand, Megan Hsia, Joseph Ng and Cindy Guo on the project.

OFJCC: Be honest—how did you feel asking complete strangers to basically put a piece of recycling in their community center?

JL: I felt skeptical at first asking strangers to hang up recycled water bottles at their community center. On top of being a strange request, adults do not usually take what teenagers say seriously. I have been used to getting my emails ignored. Still, the DECA Business Club supports reaching out and networking. There was no harm in at least trying to connect with local community centers. I felt the cause was also worth the risk. One of my heroes is Elon Musk, and he preaches that if the cause is worth losing profit, the cause is still worth pursuing. It took a few tries to find adults who would take us seriously, but the JCC has been helpful through it all!

OFJCC: How did you come up with your idea?

JL: I got the idea from the Art and Wine Festival. I went there to look at the all the art with Keshav. We saw an artist who recycled materials for art and the idea of a water bottle chandelier came from one of his pieces with recycled water bottles.

OFJCC: What has the response to your project been like?

JL: I’m glad that most of the people who have seen what we made thought it was a creative idea. The water bottles do look nice hung up, and it was really cool seeing what we made in a local community center. It’s nice that water bottles—which are associated with trash and landfill—are being used as a source of art.

OFJCC: Is there anything else we should know?

JL: This project was a lot of fun for us. We didn’t just get to cut up and spray paint water bottles, but we also got see what we made put up in the real world. When we thought of community centers, the JCC was one of the first places that came to mind. Coming up with an innovative new use for water bottles and seeing our work hung up at the JCC has been a great experience.

Thanks to Jerry and his team for bringing meaning to the old adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

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Andrea Longini

Written by Andrea Longini

Andrea Longini calls herself the Communications Manager at the OFJCC. She also calls her family long distance in Pittsburgh and her in-laws even longer distance in Belgium. She believes part of living fully is staying in touch with people you care about. An example of how this can be done is by sending them links to meaningful blog posts. Now that's what she calls communicating!

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