Leonella Santillan: Miami Service 2020

Hello everyone, welcome to my blog! My name is Leonella Noemi Santillan Zavala, I was born and raised in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and I moved to the United States of American in Miami Florida when I was 14 years old. I am a dedicated and hardworking honors student, majoring in International Business at Florida International University after finishing my bachelor’s degree I would like to continue my master’s degree at law school at FIU since I want to become a lawyer. Living in Miami has been a great opportunity for me, but I have never explored the city, this is why I decided to volunteer at nonprofit organizations so I could learn more about this beautiful land.


I volunteered for two nonprofit organizations that are called the Deering Estate and the Bakehouse Art Complex. During this pandemic it was complicated to find an organization that you could volunteer, many organizations were shut down and not looking for volunteers. Thanks to Professor John Bailly and his helpful teaching assistant Nicole that organized the Deering Estate clean up and also informed students that could volunteer at the Bakehouse Art Complex. 

The Deering Estate like I mentioned is a nonprofit organization that preserves the cultural assets of a historic site, this facility consists of museums, preserving the environment, and activities such as hiking, canoeing, exploring animals and plants. The Deering Estate also organizes environmental cleanups for the chicken key it has been littered by residents or tourists that pollute the island. The Bakehouse Art Complex is also a nonprofit organization that helps artists by recognizing their ability to shape, reflect, and transform our world. This organization provides the opportunity for the community to participate, inspire, collaborate, encourage one another to be part of changing the world. 


My aspirations for this life are to be able to help the community, environment, or make a positive impact in the world. I believe that we are here on this earth to help, thrive, prosper, and make a change. I still have hope that there are still good people in this world that are willing to make a positive impact on the community, when I was a little I always told myself that I am going to work so hard so I could make a lot of money and with that money be able to create a foundation that could help those who are in need, people that have gone through rough situations, and provide education for those who can’t. Volunteering in these two nonprofit organizations made me feel so connected with the community, making a positive impact, and projecting positiveness and kindness to the world. By also volunteering in these organizations I also got to experience things I have never done in my life it took me out of my comfort zone. I am beyond grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of these experiences, I will always keep and remember them in my heart.


The opportunity to volunteer for the Chicken Key clean up on Biscayne Bay located at the Deering Estate was part of our Miami in Miami Honors class, professor John Bailly organized this clean-up for students to obtain community service hours since most organizations were shut down and not looking for volunteers because of the coronavirus that is happening all over the world. The Deering Estate provided canoes because to arrive at the Chicken Key we need canoes as a method of transportation and trash bags were provided too since we needed bags to pick up the trash that was on the land. The opportunity to volunteer at Bakehouse Art Complex was promoted by Nicole Patrick, which is the teaching assistant, she always helps us and inform us organizations where we could do our community service hours since it is required for the class. The Bakehouse Art complex is an open exhibition were more than 100 working artists showing their art, Lauren Shapiro was the organizer for the clay workshop art. Lauren Shapiro was hired by the Bakehouse Art complex to be the artist for these amazing masterpieces of clay and also she was in charge for the whole project.


For the Chicken Key clean up all the students must be 10 am at the Deering Estate, as we waited for everything and everyone to be ready we were distributed into groups of two for each canoe and it consisted of one person that has experience in canoeing with another person that had no idea experience in canoeing. I was paired with my classmate that name is Andre Cospin, he had experience in canoeing I also got to find out that he used to compete in Canoe Sprint. I got lucky that I got paired with him, I was that student that did not have enough experience in canoeing. For this environmental clean-up, my partner and I had to pick up any trash that was contaminating the island, a lot of our classmates picked up a lot of trash such as barrels, plastic containers, shoes, bottles of glass, and many more. We would also have to explore the island in our canoes to try to go to different sides of the island to pick up trash.  For the clay workshop, I had to be there at 3 pm at the Bakehouse Art Complex, once I got to the show room the organizer and artist of this art which is Lauren Shapiro showed me how to create coral reefs mold out of clay. This art consisted of intake pieces of clay and spray the coral reef mold for the clay not to be stuck into the mold, once I had a bunch of pieces of clay made by the mold of a coral reef I would have to take glue and glue the mold to the surface. 



 Doing these community service hours made me realize how important is to do community service since it provides students or residents with the opportunity to become an active member of their community and how it could make a positive impact on society not only that but it could also have a lot of positive effects on students by helping them develop skills, networking, making long-lasting relationship and allowing them to improve the quality of life of others. I am eternally grateful to these organizations, professor John Bailly, and Nicole Patrick since none of this would have happened without their motivation and support.

Author: LeonellaSantillan

I am an international student, I am from Ecuador. I am a senior student at Florida International University.

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