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Meet Emily Briceno, Jemma Currie and Marina Barto of Surface 71 in Palm Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Surface 71- Emily Briceno, Jemma Currie and Marina Barto

Please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Surface 71, aptly named as 71% of the Earth is water- our most vital resource began as a global awareness project in our middle school science class. After raising $10,000 for wells to be installed in a small village in India and after traveling to India in the summer of 2017, we decided to continue with this project but focus on a local level. Since we live in South Florida and a coastal community, we created a student-led, student-created project called Surface 71. We applied for funding and mentorship in December 2017 with Palm Beach Philanthropy- a nonprofit.

In March 2018, we were selected as a finalist and received $12,000 in funding and mentorship from investor/philanthropist Christine Stiller and Palm Beach Philanthropy Tank. Since March 2017, we have partnered with many local nonprofits and organizations such as: Friends of Palm Beach for monthly beach clean ups, Angari Foundation for citizen science projects and drift studies, as well as, the School District of Palm Beach County Our partnership with the School District of Palm Beach County has allowed us to install Elkay water refill stations at five local public schools and more installations coming this year. Additionally, we have partnered with S’well water bottles to create a custom refillable water bottle with our logo to distribute to students to encourage the use of the Elkay water stations and reduce the amount of single-use plastic water bottles. We have partnered with our city and state leaders to provide educational awareness about the harmful effects of single-use plastic and we spoke to the City of WPB commission in February 2019 where we shared our concerns resulting in a ban on plastic straws and stirrers for restaurants in West Palm Beach. Our most recent collaboration is with Strawfish.co- to provide alternatives to plastic straws, cups/lids, and other foodservice industry containers. We are passionate about our mission to conserve water and to reduce and eliminate single-use plastics from our environment.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
With any project, there have been achievements, as well as challenges. Some of our challenges have been financial constraints, as well as our age. Because we were 14 years old when we started this organization, it was initially a challenge to have adults trust our judgment. Overall, we have learned to grow in our leadership abilities and communication skills. Now, at age 16 years old, we are confident to speak with state leaders, as well as, national companies to promote our mission. Still, one of our biggest obstacles is funding. We are constantly seeking ways to raise money, as well as, awareness. The scope of our work is dependent on the amount of donations we receive. We are currently working on fundraising to increase our budget and continue our work.

Please tell us about Surface 71.
We are most proud of the impact we have made on our community on a local scale and instilling change on a global scale. We are extremely proud of our collaborations and partnerships. In just two years, we have established a partnership with our school district and our city- West Palm Beach, as well as, a local company that focuses on alternatives to plastics called Strawfish.co Through our partnerships, we have made an impact on the amount of single-use plastics in our environment. We have been instrumental in the installation of 7 Elkay water refill stations at five local schools. This equates to close to 100,000 water bottles saved just this school year alone! Our goal is to install a water station in every public school in our district. Our goal is to continue to promote the harmful effects that plastic has on marine life, as well as human health. We believe in sustainable efforts to promote prosperity for the people in our community, as well as our entire planet. We have recently established connections with local and state businesses to share Strawfish.co/products as a viable solution to single-use plastic.

Additionally, we are stewards of our environment by joining Friends of Palm Beach to promote and participate in monthly beach clean-ups. We encourage others to reduce, reuse and refuse plastics and one way we help is through the installation of Bluetubes. We have installed two Bluetubes, recycling tubes, at Dreher Park- our largest city of WPB park. Most importantly, we collect, sort and create art sculptures from the marine debris and plastic that we collect each month at our monthly beach cleanups. We currently have three art sculptures which are on display around our county and currently 2 of the sculptures are on display at the Pat Johnson Historical Museum in West Palm Beach. We are honored and proud to engage our youth in advocacy for sustainable water conservation and to reduce single-use plastic use.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If we could start over, we would have established 501c3 status sooner, so we could have written grants and engaged in fundraising more aggressively. We would also trademark our logo and name. Overall, we are excited about the change we can make in the future.

For anyone interested to donate to support Surface 71 or attend a monthly beach clean up, please contact us at www.surface71.org

Contact Info:

  • Address: 6501 Lake Avenue
  • Phone: 5617774855
  • Email: Surface71wpb@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @surface71
  • Facebook: Surface71
  • Twitter: @surface71
  • Other: www.surface71.org


Image Credit:
Friends of Palm Beach- partner for monthly beach clean ups – International Coastal Clean up

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