Miami’s historic Virginia Key Beach was a fitting location for the latest The Children’s Trust Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) activity as close to 100 participants came together to network, clean up the environment and have a good time on Saturday, October 9.
The youth leadership development program with a focus on service and advocacy held true to its mission by exposing those who showed up to richness of Miami-Dade during an afternoon where they learned about microplastics and the harm they do to native mangroves. As well as the clean up, the afternoon included a chance for many members to learn to kayak for the first time. The backdrop of Virginia Key – once Miami’s only beach that Black families could enjoy – provided both a sobering reminder of the region’s segregationist past and hope for what can be achieved by a diverse and united community in the future.
Jamora Arroyo-Jefferson, a sophomore at Ransom Everglades, wrote a post about the event on LinkedIn and said it was an opportunity to network with like-minded classmates and do their part to keep local beaches clean. “My fellow YACers from all six groups (Central, North, south, Far South, West Kendall, and West) enjoyed coming together and getting to know one another, while we removed debris from the shore of beautiful #virginiakeybeach,” Arroyo-Jefferson wrote.
In total, eight large garbage bags filled with trash were collected. Afterward, YAC members boarded kayaks at Lamar Lake and had a chance to interact with manatees, fish, birds and other wildlife. The afternoon concluded with a lunch for all who participated.
“The most interesting part of the experience was the perfect harmony created by so many different individuals with various experiences and opinions to share,” said Regina Pina, from the YAC’s Kendall chapter and a senior at Coral Reef Senior High, "We not only got to learn and contribute to our beautiful environment, but were also able to make new connections with people in an engaging and fun way!”
Roberto Diez, a 3-year member of YAC Central who is a senior at MAST Academy, agreed. “For me, the experience encapsulated what it meant to be a member of YAC. More than just helping the community through service—which there was plenty of, rest assured—it was forging bonds within that very community. It is the combination of both these facets that make YAC so important, and make me proud to say I form part of it.
The Children’s Trust Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) is open to all Miami-Dade County high school students and serves as the youth voice of The Children's Trust. For more information and to apply, visit www.thechildrenstrust.org/content/youth-advisory-committee.