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South Carolina Honors College

  • Group of students in Cocky's Cleanup Crew holding pink trash bags.

Cocky’s Cleanup Crew

Top image: members of Cocky’s Cleanup Crew at their last cleanup of the semester on April 23, 2024.

What began as a homework assignment for an English class sparked the creation of a rather tidy activity for Honors College first-year student, Allison Desmarais.

During high school, Desmarais participated in numerous trash pickups around her community in Glastonbury, Connecticut, providing the inspiration for what would eventually be known as Cocky’s Cleanup Crew.

The volunteer-based club, comprising approximately 34 members in their GroupMe at USC, promotes environmental sustainability through monthly trash pickups near campus.

Driven by a lifelong interest in environmentalism, Desmarais officially launched the club in December 2023. However, it came with its challenges. Recruiting members, crafting a constitution and navigating many different schedules proved to be daunting tasks. Yet, fueled by their initial purpose, Desmarais and her dedicated officers persevered. “It wasn’t too bad,” Desmarais recalled of the process.

Desmarais created an Instagram and posted flyers around campus to spread the word about Cocky’s Cleanup Crew, hoping students would join her efforts to tackle environmental concerns head-on.

Despite the club’s social media presence and numerous members on Garnet Gate, a portal for student organizations on campus, Desmarais said that turning interest into action proved to be challenging. But, despite the hurdles, Cocky’s Cleanup Crew has continued to hold monthly cleanups at Maxcy Gregg Park in downtown Columbia, the current sole cleanup site.

Originally, Desmarais and the crew held cleanups at the Congaree Riverwalk. However, after realizing how little trash there was, the group switched locations to Maxcy Gregg where trash seemed a major problem. Seeping in from downtown Five Points, the stream running through Maxcy Gregg Park carries much of the trash left behind in the historic downtown district.

“We are there for the whole hour and barely get all the trash. There’s still so much to be picked up, so we keep going back there,” Allison said.

For Desmarais and her team, the core of the club’s mission extends beyond environmental protection. It is also about fostering connections with peers, raising awareness and inspiring action.

“You don’t feel like it’s a chore that you’re doing. It’s a lot of fun to be around everyone and feel like you’re doing something good for the environment,” Hailey Hicks, secretary of Cocky’s Cleanup Crew, noted.

Cocky's Cleanup Crew working outside.
From left to right, stands the club’s vice president, Anna Smith, member Neekan Nasiri and the club’s president, Allison Desmarais. Image courtesy of Raegan Feldman.

Anna Smith, the club’s vice president, said the club “is a very accessible way to get volunteer hours,” adding, “It’s easy, close to campus and it’s also a good time.”

Next semester, the officers of Cocky’s Cleanup Crew hope to expand membership, explore new locations within the Columbia area, create more cleanup opportunities each month and collaborate with other organizations on campus.

Students and community organizations can get involved with Cocky’s Cleanup Crew by joining the club’s GroupMe, following its Instagram account, spreading awareness and participating in trash cleanups.

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