Beach clean-up inspires call to serve

| by Jei Nandy, Engineering major, CCBC Class of 2016

How I spent my “alternative” birthday

This winter break I was excited to leave the cold streets of Baltimore for the warm sandy shores of Padre Island National Seashore. Our team gathered in the terminals of BWI, eager for the adventures that awaited us. Still a bit crippled by shyness, we quickly warmed up to one another, so that by the time we touched down in Corpus Christi, Texas, it seemed as if we had known each other for years.

From the airport, we loaded into our vehicles and set out for the place we would call home over the next week, which happened to include my birthday. For the first time in 22 years, I spent my birthday picking up trash, but it really wasn’t nearly as bad as it may sound. We left the house early that second morning and went to the Texas State Aquarium. There we met with Lyia Calderón, a volunteer coordinator at the aquarium, who armed us with gloves and bags then directed us to our cleanup site for the day.

As a reward for our hard work, we enjoyed free aquarium admission. Some students also took that chance to explore the USS Lexington ship, just a short walk from the aquarium. At the end of the day, we regrouped and headed home where, after dinner, I was presented with a surprise birthday cake. The entire team had been in cahoots to not only bake the cake, but also keep it a secret from me. It really was one of the nicest surprises I have ever received.

On day three, we headed down to San Antonio to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. We visited the Alamo, enjoyed long walks around the River Walk, and explored the town. We enjoyed San Antonio for everything it had to offer, including the local cuisine. Even though we did not perform any service that day, it was still memorable, as many of us expressed during that night’s reflection session.

We spent the following two days volunteering with the Padre Island National Park Service. We were split into two teams—Team Charlie and Team Alesha, named after the rangers leading each team. I was on Team Charlie as we worked our way through what they called a “controlled area,” scouring for any signs of the invasive Brazilian Pepper plant to avoid its wrath! Despite having to depart early, due to the impending blizzard back home, the rangers told us that what we accomplished over those two days was worth weeks of work for their small team of three. It was nice to see their appreciation for our contributions.

Before leaving, we spent our final afternoon collecting loads of trash from the beach located near the Park’s visitor center, which surprisingly enough happened to be one of the cleaner beaches. I am sure my group shares the same sentiments when I say, I wish we had more time to do more work.