With the sun setting behind the row of pastel hotels in South Beach, the sandy shore was pocked with piles of aluminum cans and plastic cups and bottles — the leftovers from a typical Spring Break day.
Sun-kissed from a day of partying in the surf, Jourman Triana, a 22-year-old Florida International University senior, and his fraternity brothers saw the mess and started to clean up after themselves. They joined Miami Beach workers who began their nightly sweep to prepare the beach for the next day’s visitors.
“It doesn’t take much to pick up after yourself after partying,” said Triana, who is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. “You can have fun and also do the right thing.”
On March 13, brothers from the Alpha Phi Alpha spearheaded a volunteer effort that began with about 15 men who each year hit the beach to have a good time during their break but always make it a point to pick up their trash.
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Triana said a few dozen more beachgoers joined in when they saw what was happening, filling bags with cans, bottles and other debris left behind by the big crowds. They hung around after sunset for more than an hour to lend a hand.
For Triana, the cleanup is about more than just caring for the environment. He’s an Afro-Colombian who spent the day on the beach with brothers in a black fraternity, which for some evokes a stereotype of a lazy, disrespectful Spring Break reveler who comes to the beach, makes a mess and takes off.
“We want to break that stereotype,” he said.
Beach police took notice of the students’ work and shared their thanks on Twitter the next day.
“A big thank you to the @FIU spring breakers who stayed last night and helped clean up the beach! #KeepMBClean” tweeted the police department’s official account.
In a statement Monday, the city’s administration thanked the fraternity for the nice gesture:
“The city of Miami Beach is grateful to Florida International University’s Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity for leading the beach clean up effort after a day filled with Spring Break activities. We hope all visitors follow suit by keeping Miami Beach clean when visiting our beautiful beaches.”
City Manager Jimmy Morales wrote a letter to FIU President Mark Rosenberg expressing his gratitude. Rosenberg told the Miami Herald he was proud of his students, but not surprised.
“I was thrilled to hear it, but I wasn’t surprised,” he said. “We believe it’s very important to take care of our community.”
Vacationing students from here and across the country flood South Florida during Spring Break season, often leaving a mess near the ocean. Officials in Miami Beach have tried to curb the littering and general debauchery by banning coolers and tents while enforcing existing bans on alcohol.