By Eddie Landeros
On March 6, members of Mt. San Jacinto College joined together to clean up Oceanside Beach with the Surfrider Foundation. The MSJC group was led by two students from the Honors Enrichment program, Ellie Baeza and Lauren Preble.
Preble is a second-year MSJC student majoring in marine biology. She had been previously involved with beach cleanups in the past, even hosting one when she was in high school. Baeza is a graduating student and the Vice President of the Student Government Association (SGA) on the Menifee Valley Campus (MVC).
“[Preble] and I have been friends since high school,” said Baeza. “Since coming to MSJC, we both joined the honors program and later became mentors for other students. We try and work together on things when possible, so we teamed up for this event.”
There were other students from the Honors Enrichment Program and SGA that came out as well as members from the MVC Creative Writing Club. Over 200 people showed up to Surfrider’s tent near the Oceanside Pier, waiting patiently in line to sign in and receive supplies.
The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization that was founded in 1984 in Malibu, California. It started with a group of surfers who were concerned about the increase of coastal development, which threatened public health and risked causing irreparable damage to the environment. They began to clean up trash from their local area and fought legal battles for cleaner beaches and clearer oceans. 36 years later, that group of surfers has grown to over one million supporters making positive impacts across the country.
“[Surfrider] is an amazing organization and I wanted to share the opportunity with fellow students so that they can take advantage of these cleanups on their own in the future,” said Preble.
Surfrider provided blue reusable cloth bags and buckets for volunteers, which were excellent alternatives to plastic trash bags. Baeza made pins through MSJC’s printing service and handed them out to the students that came and helped make a difference.
Baeza had been excited to host the community event for Honors Enrichment, especially since it was the first time an honors event went off campus.
“As honors mentors, Lauren and I have the opportunity to host an event once a year,” said Baeza. “Honors events are typically focused on academics and almost always on campus, so a beach clean-up was something different. Our faculty was really excited to do an event like this for the first time!”
For Baeza, Preble, and other inspiring honors students, the Honors Enrichment program has benefited them greatly in building strong relationships and opening doors to opportunities. After taking at least two honors classes, students can then become mentors, paying the benefits forward by assisting new members with their passions and projects.
“Honors describes themselves as a “community of scholars” and that’s been my experience exactly,” said Baeza. “I have made friends and connections with students in different programs, clubs, and organizations. I have also been able to make connections with awesome professors, who are excited and willing to help me with research projects that I am passionate about. It’s one of my favorite roles on campus.”
Baeza was also accepted to present at a research conference at UC Irvine and promote her favorite project, adding another valuable benefit to being in honors.
Baeza and Preble promoted their cleanup by spreading the word through tabling, announcements, flyers, and other advertisements around campus. They kept students informed through Remind, a messaging app designed for students and educators to communicate and set up events like the beach cleanup. They coordinated with Surfrider and let them know that MSJC would be bringing a large group of students to support the cause. The Honors Enrichment Program provided a van for students who did not have a means of transportation. Preble and Baeza also promoted carpooling to reduce the cost of gas and unnecessary CO2 emissions.
“We chose a beach cleanup because of its impact on our environment,” said Preble. “And it allows us to get students together to help our local beaches and make an active difference.”
Over 50 students from MSJC traveled to the Oceanside Pier to help make that difference, picking up a wide range of trash under rocks and in the sand. There were pieces of styrofoam, various plastics, and above all: cigarette butts.
According to the Surfrider Foundation’s 2019 Beach Cleanup Report, cigarettes and cigarette butts have been the most abundant piece of litter found at their beach cleanups since they started logging data in 2007. Last year alone, Surfrider volunteers picked up 47,934 cigarette butts from California’s beaches.
“Despite laws banning smoking at every city-managed beach in the county (with state beaches to follow in 2020), cigarette butts accounted for one out of every five items picked up,” states Surfrider in their cleanup report.
By the end of the day, the beach was picked clean. Along with the common items found, such as plastics and cigarette butts, volunteers found a sleeping bag, scuba gear, and even a seat from a dirt bike. Being a marine biology major, Preble was very happy with the results.
“The beach cleanup was amazing!” she said. “It’s very eye opening and once you’ve done a cleanup like this. It allows you to see how polluted our environment is that many people never notice and walk past every day.”
For more information on how you can keep our beaches clean, visit San Diego County’s Surfrider website. If you’re interested in joining the Honors Enrichment program, visit their page on the MSJC website and see how you can benefit your future.