At a school which has a marine science magnet program, you would naturally expect to find students who are concerned about environmental conservation. Keyla Correia takes that concern and turns it into passion. She founded a club at her school, Plastic Free Mermaids, that has its own website now.
"Our primary mission is to spread awareness about plastic pollution through education, outreach, and cleanups," Keyla explains.
More than 20 students have joined the club at South Broward High School, and they don't just talk about ridding the oceans of plastic garbage, they walk the walk, staging frequent shoreline cleanup days. They get it and work for the cause.
"By cleaning up and then educating about it the participants have like, a connection between what they're doing and it makes a bigger impact," Keyla said.
An impact, first and foremost, among her classmates.
"For example, the beach cleanup, I never done that before and I wouldn't have done it if I wasn't part of the club, I wouldn't understand the meaning behind it and the impact we have on nature by just leaving a straw on the floor," said Daniel Ortiz, one of Keyla's classmates.
Keyla took her activism and focused it on her school. She wrote a grant proposal that ended up netting the school a refillable water bottle station.
It's a popular spot on campus. Every time a bottle is filled up, it registers on a counter, which lets everyone know how many plastic bottles they've prevented from potentially ending up in the waterways of South Florida.
Teacher Debra Hixon sponsors the Plastic Free Mermaids club.
"She does inspire others around her, as I mentioned, she started the club, she's the president of a few others so because of her passion, she makes everyone else really excited about being part of the organization," Hixon said.
"And she basically instills in us to promote everywhere we go our club and everything that we do to help get everyone else on the bandwagon," said classmate and club member Eileen McGregor.
Academically, Keyla's one of the top students in her school. She's going off to the University of Florida next year, where she wants to study veterinary medicine and eventually specialize in aquatic animals. First, though, she's extending her reach and partnering with kids in India, Cambodia, Kenya, and Lebanon to clean up the oceans. She goes to conferences and lobbies local government agencies about conservation. Keyla thinks her message is getting through.
"It's like little bits of inspiration that I expose the people to and I spread my love to them and they are just addicted to it," Keyla said.
Getting people addicted to conservation and cleaning up the oceans? That's clearly a worthy goal.