Laura Avila is a girl on a mission! On September 17th, this 17 year-old organized a group of her friends to participate in the world’s largest volunteer effort: The International Coastal Clean-up.

By mobilizing in Tampa Bay, Laura’s team of 20 volunteers formed a vital part of this global project to collect trash. Christopher Cardenas, another Windrose Leader in Florida, carefully recorded all the details of what they found including hangars, old carpet, bottles, plastic bags, a tire, and even an old brown couch, or at least it was brown when they found it.

Ocean trash is a serious pollution problem that affects the health of people, wildlife and local economies. Last year during the 2015 International Coastal Clean-up, nearly 800,000 volunteers collected more than 18 million pounds of trash along more than 25,000 coastal miles. 

Trash in coastal areas has fatal effects on marine life, including indigestion, starvation, suffocation, infection, drowning, and entanglement. Two hundred sixty seven species worldwide are affected by this seemingly invisible danger. People mindlessly toss trash without thinking, because it doesn’t hurt them at that moment. A common perspective is that it’s “just ONE” piece of trash. Sadly, people tend to deny that littering once has a monumental effect on the environment. What they ignore is that there are millions of other people thinking and acting the same way. The seemingly innocent perspective on littering “just once” leads to one article transforming into piles and piles of waste. This  carelessness can then result in the unnecessary injury and death of countless creatures. – Laura Avila

After finishing the 4 hour project, Laura received incredible feedback from her friends. Surprised by all of the fun they had, all of the volunteers are excited for how they can continue taking action and serving in their community. Doing their part to combat carelessness made them feel empowered. Coastal Clean-ups appear to be contagious! Laura and her crew have inspired many with their efforts to keep Tampa beautiful. Peers and parents continue to congratulate the whole team on the successful service project.

Her vision for the project began all the way back in April when Laura attended our First Annual Windrose Youth Leadership Summit in Washington DC. Abounding in enthusiasm, Laura returned to Wesley Chapel, Florida committed to being an active and informed servant-leader in her community. At Windrose, we believe that leaders are learners and servants first. Laura embodies the willing hands and open mind that we challenge all of our young leaders to cultivate. We also love to see how she is bringing her friends right along with her.lauraavila01

We are so proud of Laura’s initiative to serve, conserve, and preserve our nation’s natural resources. She shared that “knowing that we could truly make a difference…made the experience unforgettable!” Now she can’t watch someone littering without taking it personally. Her friends feel exactly the same way, so when they “see others neglecting their community, they take initiative to protect it”! At Windrose, this is what we call taking ownership in your community!

Laura illustrates the power of teamwork on a mission:

When you sincerely love something you make it your mission to conserve it. If everyone felt this way about their community, there would be no issue we couldn’t overcome together. I know that through our actions we were able to make our community more beautiful and safer for its wildlife, and I’m extremely thankful I had the opportunity to serve my community with close friends and family. – Laura Avila

Inspired by Laura’s story to serve in your community? Get invested today? Don’t know how to get started? Contact our Windrose Philanthropy Team at