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Written by: Alejandro Ganaza (Guest blogger & Plastic Free Cities student from Jose Marti Mast!)

We are so excited to provide you all with an update on our ongoing #PlasticFreeCities program with Ocean Conservancy and Big Blue & You! 


In case you missed it, last year we received funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program to run a 2-year youth empowerment program known as Plastic Free Cities. This program involves training high school students from inland neighborhoods along the Miami River to become Junior Sustainability Consultants through a 5-part workshop series. After training, these students visit local businesses, survey plastic use and waste management, provide recommendations on how to reduce single-use plastics, and register them for Miami-Dade County’s #PlasticFree305 program! Each semester we are focusing on a specific neighborhood, and this semester we kicked off the program in Hialeah with Jose Marti Mast and Hialeah Senior High School! Read about this epic project in full detail in our earlier blog post.

As part of the program, each school is responsible for coordinating and hosting one community event. Jose Marti Mast hosted an epic Earth Day Celebration at their campus on 4.20 and Hialeah Senior High School hosted a wonderful Baynanza Cleanup at Amelia Earhart on 4.15! Check out this event recap written by our own Plastic Free Cities student from Jose Marti Mast, Alejandro Ganaza!

Jose Marti Mast Earth Day Celebration

April 20, 2023 @ Jose Marti Mast

With nearly 600 students joining this inspiring event to better the environment in which we live, many students took the advantage to participate in the 7 activities that were offered. Those included a seed sowing activity, native plant potting, a fun scavenger hunt, eco-friendly art showcases, some environmental organization tables (like Miami Dade County’s DERM and Plastic Free Cities), rocket launches, and of course an overall cleanup. The event took place on April 20th, 2023 from 2:00-5:00 PM, providing awareness to many of our students about the impact of plastic and our actions on the planet.

“This event is far more amazing than what I expected.” – 8th Grade Student

Thanks to our incredible business canvassing from the Jose Marti MAST 6-12 Academy, we were able to get plastic-free food from Bamboo Restaurant & Lounge. Open Water also donated 240 cans of water for the event (and we brought our water cooler for refills). Miami-Dade County’s Division of Environmental Resource Management tabled with a trivia wheel with Biscayne Bay questions, giving out 2022 Baynanza t-shirts to the winners.

DERM hosting Biscayne Bay trivia wheel
An epic rocket launch
Plastic-free bites from Bamboo Restaurant and Lounge served by PFC students
Students enjoying canned water donated from Open Water
Students receiving their new native plants
Participating in interactive eco-artwork

Apart from the incredible activities, there was an eco-fashion show (“trashion” show) where students wore pieces they made from repurposed trash and upcycled items; one student even volunteered to wear the bag monster. Earth-inspired musical performances were hosted by some of JMMAST’s incredible High Schoolers, which would then segway into an Interactive art table that allowed eco-friendly parchment to be utilized to demonstrate abstract works created by the students themselves. Small cleanups around campus were hosted by the Interact Club, where more than 50 volunteers showed up to pick up around 18.3 lbs. of trash on the school premises alone.

Plastic Free Cities hosted a table with interactive pieces of art and questionnaires for the kids to answer. Later on in the event, Alejandro Ganaza spoke about the program and gave his remarks on the fantastic success of this year’s Earth Day at Jose Marti MAST 6-12 Academy. The lines were filled, the smiles were present, and everyone kept wanting more of this astounding event.

Epic outfits from the ecofashion show
Jose Marti Mast student rocking the bag monster
Plastic Free Cities students tabling with educational materials about the program + plastic pollution
Alejandro Ganaza speaking about Plastic Free Cities
Musical performances inspired by Mother Earth
What a crowd!

Baynanza Cleanup with Hialeah Senior High

April 15, 2023 @ Amelia Earhart Park

Baynanza 2023 was a triumph! With over 100 volunteers (including an awesome group from Liberty City Elementary) we picked up around 39.2 lbs of trash and 27.6 lbs of recyclables. Although only one group successfully submitted data through CleanSwell, they picked up about 342 items. An astonishing insight into the massive loads of small confetti and balloons opened up a convo with the commissioner and park staff to
ban these items that greatly harm the environment in which we live.

Incredible guest speakers also joined to participated in the event and speak about the importance of such cleanups. This included Hialeah Commissioner and former state senator Rene Garcia, Hialeah Councilman Bryan Calvo, and Hialeah Senior High Plastic Free Cities student Krissie Vallejo-Mennes. Nancy Jackson from the Miami-Dade County Office of Resilience also attended, and the phenomenal Local 10 News joined to cover the event! With all the hard work Lo Cubano Tropical was served to all attendees, offering many delicious bites, plastic-free of course.

Thank you to the Hialeah Senior High students who helped plan and run the event, and to the staff from DERM and Amelia Earhart Park who helped run this event with Plastic Free Cities partners (DFO, Ocean Conservancy, and Big Blue & You).

DERM giving out free Baynanza t-shirts to all participants
Kicking off the cleanup with a group cheer
Admiring the waterways that we were cleaning up
Krissie Vallejo-Menes speaking
Councilman Calvo speaking
Senator Garcia speaking
Local 10 News interviewing participants
Plastic Free Cities crew picture with Councilman Calvo
Enjoying plastic-free bites from A Lo Cubano Tropical

Interested in finding out about future Plastic Free Cities events?

Join our mailing list at this link!