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Written by: Veronica Calzadilla

The Chef Andrew Scholar Program is a paid internship for college students based in South Florida who are passionate about empowering their community to go zero waste through education and outreach.

As I reflect on my journey as a Chef Andrew Scholar with Debris Free Oceans (DFO), many great things come to mind. As a curious and active individual, I have been able to learn and put my knowledge into practice through educational talks, beach and land cleanups, tabling events, and policy engagement activities.

When I began my training in August 2023, learning about microplastics and their effects on our environment and health was overwhelming. I was also concerned about how the educational talks would go since English is not my first language, and I had been in the country for only two years. However, this did not stop me from engaging with the material and, more importantly, transmitting this valuable information to my community. I became more confident with public speaking, and I am grateful to the DFO team for pushing me out of my comfort zone. I had never imagined myself leading cleanups with almost 150 students and having a successful day, but through DFO, I experienced it.

These ten months with DFO not only allowed me to raise awareness about the impact of plastic pollution in our communities but also helped me become a Miamian. I learned from my community, discovered places I had never been to before, and had the chance to meet incredible people.

I am grateful for the opportunity to advocate for our environment through this internship and for the amazing memories I created during this time. I want to recognize the role of the DFO staff in this fantastic experience. Thanks Bonnie, Bethany, Maddie, Caiti, and Amanda for all your support and guidance.