First-Year Students Help Clean Up National Parks

March 15, 2011

Balloons, fishing lines, glass bottles, chairs, flip flops, a can of car oil—these are just a few of the items 11 first-year students at Rollins College collected during a recent trip. As part of the Rollins Immersion: Citizens Take Action program, students spent two days in Everglades and Biscayne National Parks cleaning up trash and learning about Florida’s diverse ecosystems and ways to help protect them.

For the participants, this immersion trip was a reminder that even though pollution and waste can have a negative effect on the environment, their involvement can produce positive, long-lasting results.

“We worked alongside park rangers at Biscayne National Park who talked about the increase in environmental protection laws since when they were kids,” said Gabe Anderson, assistant director of Explorations. “These rangers gave first-hand accounts of how lobbying for environmental issues have had tangible results, such as saving endangered species from extinction.”

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Anderson and Jessica Follrod (Class of 2014) pick up trash at Biscayne National Park. During the two-day experience, students removed more than 12 bags of garbage from both parks.


Students extract brush from a dry retention pond in Everglades National Park to help regulate water flow. When not filled with water, the area gets overgrown, causing an erosion of the pond’s walls.

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The group dons life vests and ready their oars, as they prepare to take to the water at Biscayne National Park in search of debris and invasive plant species that threaten the delicate ecosystems, which depend on and live in those waterways.


While searching the marsh, students find a discarded Valentine's Day gift. This Mylar balloon may have been intended to send a message of love, but its waste poses a serious hazard to any animal who may mistake it for food.

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An anhinga finds respite atop the local flora. These birds—along with manatees, stingrays, jellyfish, and alligators—were among the wildlife that students encountered in the national parks.


The trip wasn’t all work and no play. As part of the experience, students enjoyed spending time outdoors, including roasting hotdogs by a campfire.

According to Student Coordinator Shalini Allam (Class of 2013), the students on the trip both expanded their awareness and went outside their comfort zone. “I really enjoyed seeing how the students came together and never complained about the tasks they received,” she said. “They worked very hard and discovered the value of preserving our environment.”

Started in 2007, the Immersion program exposes students to critical cultural, social, political and structural issues in the community in an effort to empower participants to discover their purpose as active citizens and change agents in the world. “Immersions allow students to put their learning into action by focusing on a pressing 21st century issue in real-time,” said Micki Meyer, director of community engagement. “They work hand-in-hand with community members to make a positive impact in areas such as poverty, hunger, homelessness, immigration, the environment, public health and children’s rights. The benefit for students is that they are able to learn about these important topics and work toward progress. They are able to do this while meeting other interesting and diverse students across campus who are equally passionate about community engagement.”

To learn more about the Rollins Immersion program and the many ways you can become involved, visit the Office of Community Engagement.

By Ateesh Gupta (Class of 2013)

Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
For more information, contact

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