As the last pirate hat disappeared from the streets of Tampa on Jan. 28, who’s going to clean up the mess they made?
USF student organizations Minorities in Medicine (MIM) and the Judy Genshaft Honors College Student Council (JGHCSC) volunteered their time to clean after one of the city’s largest events, Gasparilla.
Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, an environmental organization in Tampa, hosted a post-event volunteer clean up the day after Gasparilla and the Bulls showed up for the city of Tampa.
The foundation provided gloves, trash bags and grabber sticks to the volunteers, Grace Angeli, JGHCSC co-chair, said.
Angeli, a sophomore biology and environmental sciences major, noted that they weren’t only picking up beads, but other types of trash as well.
Most of the trash picked up were cans and bottles of alcohol, Angeli said.
Olivia Pinilla, the other volunteer and co-chair for JGHCSC, said she was surprised at how much trash was left after Gasparilla.
“People litter so much,” Pinilla, a sophomore biology major, said. “We found a boot in a bush, like a full high heel boot. I know it sounds crazy, but we were posing with it and taking photos because we thought it was outrageous.”
They were able to fill up 10 big trash bags full of beads and four trash cans filled with recyclables like plastic bottles, Pinilla said.
Julio Blanco, a junior biomedical anthropology major and the co-president of MIM, enjoyed being able to give up his time to give back to the community. This was MIMs first volunteering event ever since its founding in fall 2023.
There were 20 students who registered for the volunteer event through MIM, and the group collected around 500 beads, according to Blanco.
One of the best moments of the cleanup for Blanco was at the end when they got to see how much trash they collected.
“There was a huge pile of trash bags on top of trash bags, and I looked around at everybody’s faces and everybody’s like ‘What?’” he said.
After collecting all the beads, Pinilla said Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful cleans and recycles them so they don’t go to waste or end up in the ocean.
This was JGHCSC’s first year participating in the cleanup. Angeli said she hopes that JGHCSC will continue to do the cleanup every year.
Pinilla wanted members to step out of their comfort zone and make a difference in the community. Eight members of their group participated in the cleanup with JGHCSC, according to Pinilla.
Blanco said he didn’t see this as any regular cleanup – it felt as if they were cleaning up their home.
“We had a lot of fun, we all got to participate in keeping our home clean and safe and having fun, but also making sure that we were there to pick up after ourselves,” he said.
Blanco wanted to make sure that the homeless population could still live in a clean environment. He said he understands how they don’t get enough help and are sometimes forgotten about.
“They are excluded, that’s what a minority is. It’s those who are excluded, those who are underrepresented, those who struggle in some way, and I think we definitely helped. Maybe not directly, but definitely indirectly by going to this cleanup,” he said.