Leonella Santillan: Miami Service Project 2021

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 organization and state park so I could learn more about this beautiful land that has to offer.


Bill Baggs State Park provides beaches, canoeing, hiking, bicycle trails,  water fun | South Florida Travel Writers Group

Logo, company name

Description automatically generated

I volunteered for a nonprofit organization that is called the Deering Estate and the State Park that goes by the name of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Since it has been a year that we have gone through with Coronavirus, it has been so complicated to volunteer for nonprofit organizations or beach cleans up, and state parks why you may ask? Personally, for me has been complicated to find the time to volunteer and do my community service hours since now I have to go to school and work when at the beginning of the pandemic everyone was working and studying remote which means you could work and study from home. I am glad that this pandemic is almost over, it has been a year since everything started and I am grateful to God because no one that I know of die or got sick. I am grateful to have John Bailly as my professor since he was the one that organized the clean-ups for Chicken Key and Bill Baggs, along with his teaching assistant Nicole. Without their help, it would have been impossible for me to find organizations to volunteer. 

The two places that I volunteered were at The Deering Estate and Bill Baggs State Park, these two organizations their main goal is to preserve the nature that Florida has to offer and to protect it at all costs. The Deering Estate is a nonprofit organization that is in charge of preserving the environment, as also preserving the museums and historic landmarks that come with it. This nonprofit organization has so much to offer since visitors could do and perform many activities such as canoeing, walking, hiking, meditation, a setting background to take beautiful pictures, exploring animals and plants, visiting the museum, clean-ups, and many more activities. Chicken Key is part of the Deering Estate, Chicken Key is a small island located inside the Deering Estate territory. This small island has been polluted by residents or tourists that had littered at the ocean or came into the island. The Deering Estate organizes environmental cleanups for this island since it has to be preserved. The Bill Baggs State Park is a State Park that provides visitors breathtaking views of the beach and its lighthouse, picnic tables, fishing platforms, and boat camping.


Helping the community and making a positive impact in the world and society has been and always will be my biggest aspirations in my life. Since I was little I will always believe if you want people to change the world or make a positive impact on someone’s life you have to always respond with kindness because you never know what that person has gone through or the problems that she or he has. I also believe that every single human is here because for a purpose to either teach, help, make a positive change, and advise.  Helping people has been one of my biggest and best qualities, my parents always taught me to help those who are in need, and to give those who don’t have any. One of my goals is to finish school and get a job in which I get paid more than enough so I could create and build my nonprofit organization that can make a positive impact on the community and around the globe. The positive impacts I would like to do are educate those who can’t have a normal education, support victims of domestic abuse, give shelter to those that lost their homes or never had one, help people get a job, and feed those who can’t afford to have food. I would like to help, thrive and make a change in the community and I know that there are people that would like the same. 

Volunteering at the Deering Estate and Bill Baggs State Park made me feel so connected with nature by making a positive impact, nature projected positiveness and kindness into my life. Volunteering at these places took me out of my comfort zone, fight my fears, and doing stuff I have never done in my life such as canoeing into an island and learn how to use a shovel.


The opportunity to volunteer at the Bill Baggs State Park that is located at Key Biscayne as part of our Miami in Miami Honors class, my classmates and I helped the rangers with whatever they needed some students had to shovel sand, others had to pick up trash, pick up some seaweeds, etc. When we finished, we got the chance to enjoy the amazing salty water as a reward for our hard work. The Chicken Key cleanup at the Deering Estate which is located on Biscayne Bay was organized by professor John Bailly for students to obtain community service hours since it is required by FIU Honors college and a requirement for a class. To go to Chicken Key, we needed any type or method of water transportation and the Deering Estate provided Canoes for us to arrive at Chicken Key. The Deering Estate also provided trash bags for the group since we needed bags to pick up the trash that was located on the land or around it.


For the Chicken Key clean up all the students must be at 9:45 am at the Deering Estate, as we waited for everyone to arrive, we had to use the restroom before since there are no bathrooms on the island, and students had the opportunity to change into their water wardrobe. For this specific clean up all students have to be distributed into groups of two since it was one canoe for two people. The majority of the students that attended this cleanup have experience in canoeing since they have done it before or had participated before on the Chicken Key cleanups. Since we were an odd group, I had to go with two people in one canoe.  When we were going to the island, I was paired with my classmate called Esmeralda and a girl named Lorena, both of my canoe partners were fun to talk to and I enjoyed their company. I know Esmeralda since we have been in the same class for almost a year, Lorena I did not know her too well since it was the first time, I met her, but she was the sweetest and kind person I have ever met.  On our way to the island, it was hard for us since the current would take us and we would be apart from the group, what made it more difficult was that there were three people in a two people canoe but we ended up making it. When we arrive on the island my classmates and I had to pick up any trash that was located or around the island. The second time that I volunteered there was not as much trash as the first time I volunteered at the Chicken Key. As in for the time when I volunteered at the Bill Baggs State Park, we had to help the rangers at the beach with shoveling sand, picking up trash, and many more actions.



Helping the community is very important since it helps you to connect with society, you can become an active member of your community, and you can also make a positive impact on the world. Volunteers can also help students or members of the community by networking, discover new talents and passions, challenge yourself, you can learn also more about the community, organizations, or yourself. I am extremely grateful to these organizations to open up the doors for us to do a positive impact on the community, professor John Bailly and Nicole Patrick made it all possible for us to engage with nature and the world.

Author: LeonellaSantillan

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: