Maria Simon: Miami Service Project 2021


Photo by Annette Cruz (CC by 4.0)

My name is Maria Simon, currently a senior at the FIU Honors College, majoring in Biological Sciences and hoping to become a physician one. I love spontaneous adventures such as hiking mountains, parasailing, and yakaing. I love to meet people from all around the world and learn about their culture and backgrounds so hopefully one day I will be able to visit their homeland and feel as if it was my own. 


I volunteered with the Deering Estate, made by Charles Deering in the 1920s. Through the partnership that the Deering Estate has with the Honors College at Florida International University, they are able to have students come in and take care of its surroundings through the removal of waste around the estate. A small island right outside the Deering Estate called Chicken Key receives the trash that comes from South Beach and from the mainland. I was allowed to do a clean-up with my honors college class and Professor Bailey.  One of the main purposes of this trip was to gather as much waste that comes into Chicken Key from the main beaches such as South Beach and from the mainland. Waste that through one way or another, its final destination is that inhabitable small island. 


Beach clean-ups have always called my attention because of the vulnerability that the environment has due to every trash bag that gets through at the beach or any glass bottles that are left behind, even the small lids of bottles.  I selected the volunteering opportunity to clean up Chicken Key as much as I can because I felt that not only as a resident of Miami and this world I felt the urge to help animals that die because they can get trapped in those trash bags. As well as the marine life that cannot digest the bottle caps. This activity did relate to my major because since I study Biology and Biology is the study of all living organisms I also felt the responsibility that after studying the causes and effects that not taking care of the environment has on animals and plants. Being a citizen of this city, after the Spring Break that Miami had, where many left the public areas of Miami with a lot of waste, I felt an urge to help as much as I can. 


This opportunity to to a clean up in an area that is highly neglected and unknown to the residents of Miami made me realize how important it is to visit places to are not well known to those around you and to ask how can I be of help to preserve the institution and its surroundings and in this case being Chicken Key. Miami is the city where I live, where my family lives, and were in the future my children will also live. I would like to feel that the city I live and always lived in is clean for my children and for my children’s friends to live. It would be a great opportunity to feel as though Miami will become a cleaner city due to the help that I was able to give through this clean-up. 


The day started vey sunny and not too humid, perfect for a kayak experience. After bringing down the kayaks to the water from the Deering Estate, we passed by some mangroves before getting to Chicken Key. These mangroves had already trash bags hanging on the sides as well as plastic pieces of what seemed like to be the door of a boat or a part of a boat. We got off the kayaks and tried to clean up as much as we could before getting to the final destination-Chicken Key. It was a very interesting and fun experience since I have never kayaked before but it was very enjoyable to be able to go from one point to another where the only way to get to the other point is by water. After arriving at Chicken Key, I remember hearing the professor Bailly say that we will be able to fill at least 10 bags all the way to the top in just one afternoon and I could not believe him to be true. Although, it was in fact true. As I walked inside Chicken Key, on every corner a glass bottle, a piece of a plastic chair, and even pairs of shoes could be seen. We had lunch after cleaning up, some of us went back to the water and had a swim, while others like me took a nap. We had finalized the day with the clean-up and lunch then we decided to head back. Fortunately, the stream was in our favor so we were able to travel back faster this time around. We got on our kayaks and one of my favorite things about going back was the fact that we all laid down on the kayaks and looked up at the sky and genuinely thought about the many things that we can be grateful for, one of them is having the possibility to take charge in our environment and protect it as a group and as individuals. We are also lucky to be able to have a voice and to spread this opportunity of taking care of our surroundings. 



Participating in a clean-up really served as a learning opportunity to learn more about areas that are not as known to the public to properly take care of them. In my personal experience, the best thing that worked was our ability to work together to pick up as much waste as we could. One way that we all worked together was to manage the space into all of our bags to see who had more to fit bigger objects. Also, another way that we all worked together was by identifying areas that were cleaned by some of us to then focus on other areas that were not cleaned up. We did realize that more of us were necessary to clean up as much as we can from Chicken Key. It served me as a learning experience that you could never have too many people to work as a team and help the environment we live in. 

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