Debris Free Oceans

Chef Andrew Scholar Program

A Chef with Two Passions; Culinary Arts and the Ocean

To honor the life of Chef Andrew Michael Alessi, Debris Free Oceans has created a program in his memory. The Chef Andrew Scholar Internship is a six-month-long program for college students based in South Florida who are passionate about engaging communities with education and outreach to address the plastic pollution crisis! With great mentorship from the Debris Free Oceans team, the interns become experts in plastic pollution, public speaking, sustainability consulting, and community organizing.

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About Chef Andrew Michael Alessi

Chef Andrew’s two passions were culinary arts and the ocean. As a credentialed Chef, he spent many hours preparing signature recipes and presentations for the kitchens of the finest Miami restaurants including 27 and The Fontainebleau. Andrew also spent many happy days diving among the beautiful reefs of Miami, the Florida Keys, and the Caribbean and made sure he always collected any debris he saw attached to the reefs.

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The Scholar Program

Each month of the program, interns coordinate and host two educational presentations and one beach cleanup. In addition, interns consult at least one local business to go plastic free! After completing all requirements, interns are awarded a $1,250 stipend to help cover school costs.

Alyssa Ulrich

Current Research Intern

Alyssa was born and raised in Oregon, Ohio. She is a masters student at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Sciences with a concentration in Marine Conservation. In addition to hosting cleanups and delivering presentations, Alyssa will be evaluating the effectiveness of these programs. As a part of her master’s degree, Alyssa will also be surveying local marine debris leadership individuals with the hopes to evaluate the impact and reach of community cleanups in Miami-Dade County, representation in environmental conservation, as well as areas of improvement. After graduation, she plans on moving back to Ohio for a little, while searching for an environmental outreach and education job that allows her to continue to spread awareness about impacts on our oceans.

Kevin Oakley

Current Intern

Kevin Oakley is a junior at The University of Miami and was born and raised in Washington DC. He studies Environmental Science and Policy as well as Business Sustainability. Kevin strives to uphold his sustainable values across all aspects of his life. As the sustainability chair of his fraternity, he has implemented programs and initiatives that have nearly eliminated their use of disposable plastic cups; and this is just the start of his plans. He is so grateful to be working for Debris Free Oceans so he can extend his passion for the environment to local students and the surrounding community.

Amanda Di Perna

Current Intern

Amanda Di Perna is a junior at Florida International University (FIU) majoring in marine biology. Amanda has been researching plastic pollution for two years, and has conducted extensive work on the issue, such as leading several cleanups and demanding legislative change. She is the president of the Green Campus Initiative, an Honors organization at FIU currently focused on reducing single-use plastic on the state and campus level, as well as the outreach director for the Surfrider Foundation FIU club. Amanda has now joined the Debris Free Oceans team as a Chef Andrew Scholar, and strives to continue to fight against plastic for the sake of our beautiful oceans and the lives that depend on them.

Sofía Mesa

Past Director and Intern

Sofia was born and raised in Miami, FL to Cuban parents and is a first generation college student. She is a Senior and Hammond Scholar at the University of Miami, graduating with a double major in English, and Ecosystem Science and Policy. At UM, Sofia has served as the Chair of Student Government’s environmental agency ECO and as the Founding Sustainability Director at the free pop-up thrift swap, UThrift. After graduation, she plans on attending Law School and pursuing a career supporting environmental law and policy that protects both people and the planet.

Isabella Herrera

Past Intern

Isabella Herrera is a 21-year-old undergraduate student currently in her last semester at Florida International University. She is majoring in Sustainability and the Environment with a minor in Marine biology and an undergraduate certificate in Biodiversity Conservation and Management. Isabella focuses much of her coursework on plastic pollution, participates in numerous cleanup efforts, and has now joined Debris Free Oceans’ Chef Andrew Internship program in hopes of encouraging more sustainable choices in individual consumers and local businesses in the state of Florida.

Haley Brathwaite

Past Intern

Haley is a sophomore at the University of Miami, majoring in marine affairs and political science. She is a member of the ECO Agency, sits on the E-board of Ocean Awareness Week, and mentors first-year students in the honors program. She can be found at the beach, gym, or doing work outside on a nice day in her free time. Originally from California, with Caribbean roots, she has a love for marine life and a deep passion for environmental justice. After college, Haley plans to go to law school and eventually create legislation to protect the oceans and prevent minority communities from the dangers of pollution.

Esther Cai

Past Intern

Esther was born and raised in Miami, FL, to an Accountant and Math Professor and somehow still came out terrible at math. I’m a junior at the University of Miami studying Ecosystem Science and Policy with minors in Sustainable Business and Spanish. On-campus, Esther uses her position as Philanthropy Chair of her sorority and Service Chair of AGLO (Associated Greek Letter Organizations) to educate people on critical environmental issues and organize cleanups for DFO. Off-campus, Esther works with DFO as much as she can and is always trying to further educate herself and others around her.

Lizzie Macgowan

Past Intern

Lizzie grew up in Miami, Florida and attended Florida International University majoring in Psychology and minoring in film photography. She studied at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff for a year, where she took courses on environmental psychology, studying the relationship between the environment and the individual. She is passionate about nature, psychology, and philosophy, and hopes to be an influence in uniting those in order to better the state of the planet. In her free time she can be found tending to her plants and garden, biking, shooting photos, and spending time in nature.