LeaderShape Institute Visits Panama City Beach

by May 11, 2009 • 0 comments

We had several students from Florida State and FAMU visit for a beach cleanup and survey this week. Thanks to PanamaCityBeach.com for sending us this group and to Royal American Beach Getaways for supplies and sponsorship.

The following is a report from the students and facilitators.  I’ll comment that adding trash bags to the beach could be dangerous as they indicate, but it would be better than more cans. The cans are ugly and filthy; people must learn to take their trash off the beaches for proper disposal.

The TDC has reported that they are looking into bio-degradable bags for the public beach entrances. I believe this would help.

Thank you VERY MUCH to the students and facilitators who visited our beaches and participated in the cleanup.

LeaderShape alumni include Google co-founder Larry Page.

LeaderShape alumni include Google co-founder Larry Page.

FAMU and Florida State LeaderShape Institute

FAMU and Florida State LeaderShape Institute

(Report from participants in the LeaderShape Institute)

60 students and 11 faculty members from Florida State University and Florida A&M University are taking part in a national program called the LeaderShape Institute. The LeaderShape Institute encourages students to develop a vision for positive change in their communities while being provided with the knowledge and resources to learn how to live and lead with integrity.

As part of the day’s curriculum theme, which was “The value of one, the power of all,” our students divided into groups to complete service projects in the PCB area Saturday morning. Engaging in active service teaches our participants how to work together to identify community needs and create positive change through outreach and relationship-building.

The students working on the beach clean up awareness campaign worked together to pick up litter and gather qualitative data from beach-goers to determine how well the needs of the beach community are being served.

Here are their findings:
1. How clean are these beaches compared to public places?

The students interviewed approximately 50 beach-goers at 2 sites-some local and some tourist. The responses that most tourists offered surprised many of our students because the majority felt as though the beaches were cleaner than most. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most filthy, tourists gave the beaches a 4 score on average. However, the students were presented with a very different perspective from local residents, particularly one of the lifeguards. The lifeguard, a native of Hawaii, said that of all of the country’s beaches, PCB was among the dirtiest. The students reasoned that the beaches were cleaner at this point of year than during peak seasons, which would explain why tourists’ perceptions of the beach condition would be cleaner than the locals’ perceptions. The group collected approximately 25 full bags of garbage, in which were aluminum cans, cigarette butts, Styrofoam cups, old beach toys, and even several diapers.

2. If you were given trash bags, would you be more inclined to clean up your trash?

Almost every respondent indicated that offering personal trash bags would not only fail to solve the problem, but possibly make it worse. Students cited the following reasons:
-failure to properly secure the bags would lead to wind blowing the trash out of the bags and back onto the beach
-the bags might get left on the beach, causing more litter
-the bags might blow into the ocean, creating a hazard for marine life

On the other hand, the students proposed the following solutions:
-more large blue trash receptacles
-in place of using tax dollars to comb the beach, the city should sponsor a local initiative for beach cleanup. Local residents suggested that most volunteer groups that come out to clean up the beach are from out of town and cannot return frequently enough to make a lasting change in the beach condition. By sponsoring local organizations and volunteer efforts, PCB can encourage more consistent effort and attention on the upkeep of its beaches.

3. How much money is spent on beach cleanup annually?

The students documented a wide range of responses, ranging from a few thousand to 4 million dollars. The respondents were generally surprised to find out that over 1 million dollars is spent on beach clean up each year.

The students indicated that they learned a great deal from their experience. Part of the LeaderShape curriculum emphasizes the importance of “staying in action,” so the students have been encouraged to take their new knowledge and contact the appropriate community officials and representatives to encourage more attention and funding to be given to the preservation of the beaches.

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