Hawaii Teen’s Nonprofit Transforms Recyclables into College Scholarships

Daily Point of Light # 7827 Jun 5, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Genshu Price. Read his story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

With its breathtaking beaches and sunny skies, Hawaii paints the perfect picture of paradise. But behind this postcard-perfect façade, locals like Genshu Price know the real story. Growing up in Hauula, Hawaii, meant facing the harsh reality of steep living costs. When Genshu was 10, his dad proposed an idea: collect and recycle bottles and cans to save for college. At first, Genshu did just that, but he soon saw the bigger picture.

“Because of our high living costs and other problems that we face on the island, a lot of students unfortunately don’t even think about pursuing higher education,” Genshu said. “I recognized the potential of what this idea could be and turned it into what Bottles4College is now, which is a program solely for other students. Our mission is to recycle cans and bottles to not only help the environment but also create college scholarships for local students.”

Initially, Genshu embarked on his recycling mission with a humble pushcart, collecting bottles and cans from neighbors and scouring beaches, parks and even Little League Baseball Games for discarded recyclables, turning them into cash at nearby recycling centers. However, as Bottles4College evolved into an official nonprofit in 2021, Genshu expanded his reach.

Genshu runs a donation drive for Bottles4College, allowing local residents to drop off their recyclables, which will then be converted into funds for college scholarships.

Collaborating with local businesses and schools, he established drop-off depots at convenient locations. Additionally, partnerships with organizations like Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, known for their beach cleanups, and Kualoa Ranch, a renowned nature reserve and tourist hotspot, further amplified Bottles4College’s impact.

To date, Bottles4College has recycled over 1.5 million cans and bottles, diverting over 100,000 pounds of trash from landfills. With the funds raised from recycling, Bottles4College has been able to award two $10,000 scholarships and three $500 scholarships to deserving high school seniors in Hawaii.

“One of our scholarship recipients is currently going to the University of Hawaii at Manoa to get her bachelor’s degree in education and math to teach at Title I schools here in Hawaii. Another one of the awardees just won the National Championships for competitive cheer at her college. So not only are we helping these students get their college accolades, but they’re also getting the chance to live out their dreams,” Genshu said.

Genshu’s commitment to his community transcends college scholarships. He spearheaded a disaster relief initiative, orchestrating a successful “Bottles 4 Maui” drive at a local mall. This effort raised $10,000 to aid victims affected by the 2023 Maui wildfires.

On top of his schoolwork as a high school sophomore, Genshu dedicates anywhere between 10 to 40+ hours a week for Bottles4College, communicating with donors, picking up and sorting through recyclables, running recycling drives and participating in different community and speaking events.

Genshu picks up a bag full of recyclable cans and bottles from a hotel in Hawaii. /Courtesy Genshu Price

But Maria Price, Genshu’s mother, says all of this wouldn’t be possible without the help of their community.

“The donors of Bottles4College and the people that support him are from every background,” Maria said. “We pick up from local businesses, but we also pick up cans and bottles from people in low-income housing. So that really reflects the sense of community we have here where everybody is doing their part to uplift one another.”

Genshu’s vision doesn’t end here; he is working on securing more grants and funding to boost Bottles4College’s impact. In the meantime, Genshu hopes his story inspires others to get involved in the causes they care about.

“As much as we can talk and say that we care, it’s really only effective when we get involved because that’s when the action happens,” Genshu said.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Genshu? Find local volunteer opportunities.

Alicia Lee