Miami Palmetto High School senior Nicole Gazo had quite a summer.
“I did a shark research course with the field school for seven days, where we lived on a research vessel — named the RV Garvin — and conducted research to better identify nursery habitats for sharks and their feeding patterns,” she says. “We tagged them, took measurements, blood samples, biopsies, and fin clips.”
Gazo says that week was a life changing experience and changed how she views sharks.
“Where they used to be these scary, powerful fish in my eyes, they’ve transformed into fragile, remarkably powerful fish that have perfectly evolved into the top predator of the ocean,” she says.
That research study fits in with her passionate advocacy of the environment. She does more than just talk about what can be done, she’s a leader on the subject.
“I do beach clean-ups,” she says. “One or two beach clean-ups a month.”
She participates in the clean-ups hosted by a variety of organizations.
Gazo is particularly concerned about the effect of plastic on our oceans and marine life.
After seeing a video of a straw being pulled out of a turtle’s nose, she emailed Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho asking that Palmetto be allowed to ban plastic straws.
“I was asking him if he could eliminate the straws in the (spork) packages the school distributes,” she says. “We have a pineland garden here. I sent a picture of that and all the plastic straws.”
Carvalho agreed with her concerns. Miami-Dade was already moving in that direction and he directed that Palmetto be included in the next phase of schools that eliminated the plastic straws.
Along with helping eliminate plastic straws at Palmetto, Gazo was successful in encouraging plastic straw bans in Palmetto Bay and the Village of Pinecrest.
“Through meeting with the Mayor of Palmetto Bay, Karyn Cunningham, she personally appointed me to the Palmetto Bay Youth Community Involvement Board,” Gazo says.
“Through the Youth Community Involvement Board, my board members and I discuss ways to improve our community and become more involved.”
The youth involvement board participated in Relay for Life and helped organize ways to install more recycling bins in Palmetto Bay.
“With positions on the youth community involvement board, we now have even more credibility to propose goals such as ‘zero carbon emissions by 2050,’ more electric car incentives, or even a universal plastic ban,” she says.
At the last board meeting, Gazo planned to bring up the Global Climate Strike scheduled for Sept. 20 at Miami Beach City Hall and a request to Carvalho on excusing that absence or dedicating the day to Climate 101 type lectures.
Gazo used her experiences in banning plastic straws to apply for the Bezo’s Scholars Program with a peer mentoring program called Climate Leadership Information Project, “CLIP”. While she didn’t make the cut this time, she proposed it to the CLEO Institute. She had participated in a Climate Design Lab for three weeks at the CLEO Institute where they were able to hear from a varied of speakers including NOAA scientists.
The program Gazo proposed, Climate Leadership Information Project (CLIP), is modeled after the Health Information Project and will send high school juniors and seniors to sophomore classrooms to teach about pivotal climate issues.
Gazo was able to create a new club at Palmetto for students interested in CLIP. She is also the environmental outreach chair for student council.
Aside from her environmental interests, Gazo is a member of the Variations Dance Team, the French Honor Society, the English Honor Society and PAWS.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld