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Middle school students assist in the cleanup of a New Haven park

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NEW HAVEN --  Mark Anthony, a sixth grader from Fair Haven School, likes to hang out at Criscoulo Park and keep it clean, even if others don't.

"Some people, they throw trash, they need to clean the park,” said Anthony.

So he and his fellow sixth graders set out to fix it. All of the students in his class are new, less than 4 years in the U.S. They arrived not speaking much English. Teacher David Weinreb, teaches them in their native language and English.

The students started learning civics in November 2016, around the time an idea was born. Becky Bombero, of the New Haven Parks and Recreation Department, told them about a way to pay for a cleanup.

Weinreb said the students all wrote out a grant proposal for how they wanted to make Criscoulo Park a better place, including a budget proposal.

"They made a plan, they submitted a grant and were submitted the reward," said Bombero.

The reward? A check for $642.

Today, elm trees are being planted, recycling cans are being painted, and garbage is being picked up, not bad for $642. And for a 12-year-old who’s been in the country only four years, he’s well on his way to being a civic leader.

Weinreb said, “They’re young activists and though they are new, they have a capturing of whats happening in their city.

Mark said he wants to have a clean park, and “Play soccer, play with my family."