By Dani Moritz-Long
Taking a special interest in our students often leads to enhanced student success, but it can also translate to a big win for our community. Take Mia Cabotaje, for example, an honors student whose relationship with Director of Education for Sustainability Resham Shirsat led to a series of eye-opening opportunities that have benefited both Mia and Central Florida.
Resham’s mentorship of Mia inspired her to pursue an internship with the Orlando City Soccer Stadium as a recycling ambassador and, later, a waste reduction educator for the Parramore Farmer’s Market.
“I’m definitely passionate about sustainability,” Mia said. “And honestly, I think everyone would be too if they realized just how much is encompassed by sustainability — it’s not just about recycling and waste reduction. I think the passion stems from necessity. The environment and its inhabitants (us included) need a sustainable future. If I don’t speak up about sustainability, how else will change occur?”
Describing her role with the farmer’s market, Mia explained, “Basically, I had a little booth set up where I had educational materials about waste reduction — tri-folds about recycling and green alternatives, pamphlets about Orlando’s recycling programs, posters about the impact of waste reduction, etc. I went almost every Saturday when the market was happening and educated the public how to reduce their waste at home, what alternatives they could take to reduce their carbon footprint, etc. I learned a lot about sustainability and how waste reduction is only a small part of it. I learned about how to efficiently get people to make small changes in their daily life and how to approach them when suggesting alternatives.”
The opportunity was a daunting role, Mia said — something that not only supplied her with sustainability education, but also interpersonal skills.
“Funny enough, I was extremely anxious about the project since it involved a lot of talking with people, but that was what I enjoyed the most,” Mia said. “I met people who were so knowledgeable about waste reduction, and it made me realize that there’s always room for improvement. The people I met at the market, both the visitors and the vendors, really made the experience wonderful.”
Now, having completed her service learning opportunity, Mia has moved on to her role as a sustainable policy analyst and green events coordinator with Green Works Orlando, an initiative to transform Orlando into one of the most environmentally friendly and economically and socially vibrant communities in the nation.
Ultimately, Resham’s mentorship and interest in Mia led her to find viable careers that suit her passion for sustainability — something Mia is incredibly thankful for.
“I’d like to thank Resham,” Mia said. “Not only was she my mentor for a couple of different projects, but she was also a source of inspiration — inspiration for sustainability (and its careers since I’m going into chemical engineering with a focus in sustainability), but also inspiration for passion, dedication and hard work.”
Kudos to Resham for inspiring another bright Valencia mind to make a difference in our community.
To learn more about how you can encourage students to pursue similar opportunities, click here.