Hello, everyone! My name is Nicole Patrick. In three words, I would describe myself as organized, kind, and determined. I am a senior at Florida International University and its Honors College studying Hospitality & Tourism Management with a combined Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in the subject. During my time at FIU, I have been able to take part in many opportunities, such as being a student leader in Panther Camp, Honors College, and Campus Tours, volunteering and coordinating a spring break service trip to Puerto Rico with Alternative Breaks, studying abroad with Hospitality at Sea, and gaining professional experience with the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.
For my service project, I worked with the Deering Estate. The Deering Estate is a cultural asset and a historic site located in Miami. One of the biggest focuses of the estate is conservation. With the help of my Professor John W Bailly and Conservation & Research Specialist Vanessa Trujillo, I organized my second cleanup of Chicken Key, which is an island in Biscayne Bay one mile off the shore of the Deering Estate.
My passions in life include volunteering and traveling, specifically eco-tourism, sustainability, and culture-immersive experiences. I aspire to make the world a better place by giving my time, energy, and dedication to the environment and the people that live in it. As a Hospitality & Tourism Management major, I see myself organizing more volunteer experiences in the future at a local level also a touristic level.
I have experience in scheduling, volunteering, and working in teams. In March 2019, I led a group of seven students from FIU in a service trip to Puerto Rico. We spent our spring break volunteering in various ways on the island like refurbishing an abandoned school, picking up marine debris off the beach, and spending an afternoon helping kids with their English at a Boys & Girls Club. The experience was nothing I could imagine or predict. It was just incredible.
A quote a recently heard is, “Think global, but act local.” By hosting these cleanups, I have given others the opportunity to make an impact on their local community. For this reason, I continue to do the cleanups. Nothing compares to the feeling of sharing this experience with others.
How this volunteering opportunity came out is much different than typical volunteering opportunities. Currently, I am taking my second course with Professor John W Bailly. As part of his classes, the class spends a day cleaning up the marine debris off of Chicken Key. I have had the opportunity to participate in this cleanup twice as his student. When I had participated this past fall semester, I posted about my experience on social media, specifically Instagram. A number of my followers were actually interested in taking part in the cleanup, so I told Professor Bailly. He encouraged me to create a group of students to cleanup Chicken Key.
I organized my first cleanup on November 10, 2019 and my second on January 4, 2020.
Where & What
In preparation for the cleanup, I was in communication with Vanessa Trujillo, Conservation & Research Specialist at the Deering Estate, Professor Bailly, and the leads for the cleanup. I shared with them the structure and schedule of the cleanup. For the participants of the cleanup, they were all in the WhatsApp group chat. I use the chat to keep track of the number of people I expect to come.
The original date for the second cleanup was December 21, 2019; however, the weather would not permit for us to have a successful experience. As a result, I made the decision to post-pone the date of the cleanup to January 4, 2020. I kept all involved informed, so we did not have any issues.
I created a sign-in sheet for the cleanup because I did not use one the first time and it caused some issues with canoe-pairings and volunteer hours. Using the sign-in sheet, I was able to create canoe-pairings based on canoeing confidence. I also was able to have information on whether or not everyone needed volunteer hours and their contact information all in one place.
A week before the cleanup, I began sending reminders to everyone involved that the cleanup was one week away and to start getting prepared. I informed them on the schedule, the attire, and location of the cleanup, so we all knew what to expect. As we got closer, I continued to send updates and information.
The day of the cleanup went very well. We were able to implement the sandbags and we filled 42 of them with trash from Chicken Key. The original structure changed a bit because number of volunteers was less than expected. Nevertheless, the cleanup was very successful and my leads Lily Fonte, Nathalie Sandin, Natalie Brunelle, and Corey Ryan had done a phenomenal job assisting me.
The cleanup occurred on Saturday, January 4, 2020.
With each cleanup, I learn something new whether a new technique or a more efficient way to organize the cleanups. For January 4th, I decided to incorporate two new aspects: sandbags and leads.
After researching other cleanups in the area, I noticed that one cleanup group did not use trash bags for their cleanups. Instead, they used sandbags. I thought that this is such an efficient idea because it reduces the amount of waste as they do not use trash bags. It also gives the opportunity to proper disposal of the debris collected. We used the sandbags and they worked! We were able to collect the trash without having to use trash bags. We did not sort what we collected because we were pretty exhausted from the canoe ride back. To sort the trash, I think I will need to enlist the help of a second group of volunteers to solely organize it. That way, I do not exhaust volunteers who start the day. This will be something I will incorporate in future cleanups.
From my previous cleanup, I realized that I can not be in all places at once, so for January 4th, I asked help of others who have previously done the cleanup. This way, they understand and know how the cleanup works and what Chicken Key looks like. It was very helpful to have them because they were able to help others and the pressure was not all on me. I will continue having leads for my future cleanups.
I am currently working with the Deering Estate in planning my next cleanup, which is exciting. The FIU Honors College even shared the cleanup on their Instagram page, so I have even more people interested in joining!