Esmeralda Iyescas: Miami Service Project 2020


My name is Esmeralda Iyescas and I in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Information technology from Florida International university. Aside from technology, some of my other interests include gardening, paining, volunteering, swimming, and reading.


For my service learning community service hours, I volunteered at various beaches and parks located in south Florida. The first location I volunteered at was Pinetree Park in Miami Beach for Clean Miami Beach, which is a nonprofit organization that is committed to cleaning up the environment to make life more sustainable. Next, I volunteered at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park located in Key Biscayne, Florida. Following this was another clean up at Chicken Key where my Honors class and I helped pick up trash. Professor John Bailly kindly took the initiative to organize the cleanup for his entire Miami in Miami class. Lastly, I volunteered at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood, which was also organized by Professor John Bailly for his Honors class.


Since I was a little girl, my mother always emphasized the value of volunteering and how my contribution to my community is very important. This mentality was instilled at a very young age, so I have had the pleasure of volunteering at countless different events throughout my lifetime. That being said, none of the places where I volunteered pertained to my major, instead pertained to a subject that I care deeply about. I often find myself looking for volunteer opportunities that will positively impact the environment because it is a topic that is of great interest to me. In addition, many of the volunteer opportunities in the south Miami/ south Florida area are often on the environmental spectrum because we are greatly impacted by the pollution crisis.


Pinetree Park:

I saw there was various openings for Miami Beach cleanups, but due to the corona virus pandemic, the spots were extra limited and filled up rather quickly. I took the initiate to contact Sophie Ringel, the founder and executive director of Clean Miami Beach. The fantastic woman that she is found an opening for me. I was able to participate and join their cleanup for 2 hours at Pinetree Park in Miami Beach, Florida.  On September 26th, 2020, I drove up to the park and collaborated with other volunteers to clean up the park that had not been clean for several months due to the pandemic.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida Park:

The next volunteer opportunity was a cleanup at at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Pre-pandemic, I would visit the park often with friends and family because I enjoyed spending time outdoors and by the local lighthouse. I had contacted Shane Zigler, Park Specialist and Volunteer Coordinator, multiple times about volunteering at the park, but unfortunately Covid made it very difficult for me to find an opening. Luckily, Shane Zigler never forgot about me and reached out when a couple spots opened.  On October 10th, I seized the opportunity and spent my Saturday morning cleaning up trash from the Biscayne coast. For two hours, I walked up and down the coast and around the park cleaning up the area and enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

Chicken Key:

On October 14th, 2020, Professor John Bailly organized a cleanup for our Miami in Miami Honors class. We all met up at the Deering Estate Park and prepared for our adventure to Chicken Key Island. We teamed up in groups of two and paddled out of the Deering Estate in our rented canoes.

Bakehouse Art Complex:

On October 28th, 2020, Professor John Bailly had us meet him and the rest of the class at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood, Florida for another volunteer opportunity. At the Art Complex, we helped assist a young artist, Lauren Shapiro, on her art endeavor. We would spend our class time learning about the purpose of her project and ways we can aid her.


Pinetree Park:
Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas at Pinetree Park/ CC BY 4.0

On Saturday September 26th, 2020, I arrived to Pinetree Park and signed in with the volunteer coordinator to get my shirt and a bucket for the event. The founder of Clean Miami Beach, Sophie Ringel, explained to us the kind of trash that is typically found on the particular coast and the importance of trying to remove as much as week could during out allotted time.

While I was picking up trash during my 2 hours, I was taken back by the amount of trash that covered the area. I picked up microplastics, bottles, nets, and even tires from the park. The volunteer coordinators were keeping track and weighing the trash that everyone was brining in order to be compared at the end. I went to dump out my bucket several times and by the end of the 2 hours, I had picked up about 50 pounds of trash. All the volunteers collectively collected 600 pounds of trash. I was in absolute awe when I saw how much trash had be collected after the two hours. That experienced allowed me to see the reality we are living in and how the amount of trash that is found on our coastal waters is destroying our environment.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida Park:

On Saturday October 10th, 2020, I had the privilege of volunteering at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and met a very nice gentleman by the same of Shane Zigler. He is a state park ranger who is also in charge of coordinating all the volunteer services for Bill Baggs. He gave me a bucked to collect my trash and I began by the lighthouse and worked way down the beach. The people who pollute the area really disgusted me because I had to pick up several bottled of urine, dirty pampers, used and dirty underwear, and syringes. As I was working my way down the beach, I could not believe that the trash kept going, it truly felt endless. I decided to work my way up once I almost reached the end of the beach and some visitors really broke my heart. They were sitting by the beach and discarding their trash behind them or hiding it under the sand. Upon viewing that, I felt utterly repulsed how a family could be so carless about the earth and teaching this to their children. I respectfully asked them if they would give me their trash instead of littering, but seeing that really had me lose a bit of faith in my community.

After I had completed my service, I asked him a series of questions about the cleanup and how our contributions impacted the park. Zigler went on to mention how the pandemic had been a blessing in disguise for the park because they needed to shut down for a couple months and that helped bring the ecosystem back to healthier standard while also improving the quality of life to the animals and plants. Since there were no visitors, there was a significant reduction in trash and pollution along the coast. On the other hand, since there were visitors allowed, that meant volunteers were also not allowed to come either. And even though there was no direct pollution happening, Zigler mentioned that there was still a large amount of trash in the ocean and would end up along the shore. This meant the rangers had to pick up trash on their own and it was a lot of work for such a small group of employees. Upon learning this, I realized how important and valued our contributions were to the environment and to the employees.

Chicken Key:

On Wednesday October 14th, 2020, Professor John Bailly had us meet at the Deering Estate to pickup trash from Chicken Key. We got into groups of two and paddled on our rented canoes out to the Chicken Key island. Once we arrived to the island, we secured our canoes and began filling up our bags with the trash that covered the area. For such a small piece of land, there was an impressive amount of trash. We very quickly filled up all our trash bags and our canoes, with a ton of trash still remaining on the island. The problem we face with pollution and littering is when it gets discarded incorrectly, it will make its way into the environment and destroys the natural habitats. I saw examples of this with the hermit carbs, pieces of plastic would be buried in their holes or they would get stuck in plastic bottles. Fortunately, I did not see many dead fish but in other parts of Miami, wildlife is constantly dying from the pollution.

Bakehouse Art Complex:
Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas at the Bakehouse Art Complex/ CC BY 4.0

On Wednesday October 28th, 2020, we met Professor John Bailly at the Bakehouse Art Complex to help out a local artist, Lauren Shapiro, with her art project. Upon arrival, we were welcomed into her studio and she began by introducing herself and the purpose of her project. The medium she was working with was clay and great amounts of it.

Lauren showed us how to make the clay molds and how to apply it onto her wooden blocks. What I did appreciate about her art endeavor was that she allowed us to place it however and get creative with the project. Her idea of a community project really took life and allowed her project to really blossom. I enjoyed the collaborative efforts I made with my classmates to help Ms. Shapiro complete her project.


Screenshot of the hours completed and approved from the MyHonors website


Most of my community service hours consist of beach and parks clean ups around Miami because I care deeply about the environment and my community.

Frankly, I found all the experiences to be really humbling because I realized the notable impact each volunteer has on our pollution crisis. I also noted how easy most people dismiss the current environmental issue that we are all faced with. In addition, I noticed that there is a small group of people who are willing to dedicate a couple of hours of their time to volunteering in their community.

These experiences and opportunities have allowed me to learn and grow, and I will help inform and educate other people on the environmental crisis. I will make it my duty to keep volunteering and aiding my community in anyway possible because I really care and love my city and this earth. We had a common responsibility to maintain this earth clean and healthy, if we work together we can accomplish our environmental goals.

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