Thanks to the Leadership St. Pete (LSP) Class of 2022, the Clam Bayou Marine Education Center will soon receive much-needed improvements to make the facility more comfortable and inviting for area students and children.
LSP recently announced the launch of its latest class project, titled “Waves of Inspiration.” The 53rd class of community leaders chose the Clam Bayou Marine Education Center as its annual project and plans to enhance the exterior of the center and its extensive outdoor spaces.
The facility, operated by the USF College of Marine Science in partnership with the City of St. Petersburg, offers educational and community outreach programs to inspire youth involvement in environmental issues and ocean conservancy. Located in South St. Pete, the center also hopes to foster career pathways in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for underserved communities, and annually serves over 100 local teachers through professional development programs.
“The goal is to really create some comfort spaces for kids who are trying to learn outside in the sun all day,” said Lindsay Petty, chair of the LSP class of 2022. “They can enjoy the outdoors and just connect to all the various spaces – it’s a pretty large property, and there are several spaces, but they’re not really connected.”
LSP is billed as one of the oldest leadership programs in America and is a subsidy of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s nonprofit foundation. LSP’s mission is to recruit and develop leaders representing the city’s diversity to assume future leadership roles.
Petty said it is an honor and a privilege to guide the group of 39 leaders through such an intensive six-month program. In just the first six weeks, Petty said class members are already forging bonds with each other and the various community leaders involved in the program.
The LSP planning committee, comprised of alumni volunteers, opened a request for proposals to community nonprofits last summer to identify potential class projects. Over the next few months, the committee narrowed the proposals to three nonprofits that impact the community and have a demonstrated need. The class members then hold facilitated discussions and site visits, and votes on what project they want to adopt.
“We’re always looking for a project where 35-40 people can all actively participate, regardless of construction skill expertise,” said Petty. “So, lots of painting, gardening, cleaning up, and maybe building furniture tends to be the scope of the project.
“There’s a lot of sweat equity from the class … ”
Petty said hundreds of children come through Clam Bayou Marine Education Center each year, and the main facility is a donated house. She said the surrounding outdoor area still resembles the yard of a house with a lot of concrete, little shade and minimal landscaping.
The LSP Class of 2022 plans will offer shaded picnic tables as a reprieve from the Florida sun. They will also introduce more landscaping and complete paths that draw kids from one space on the expansive grounds to the next.
Petty noted that fostering environmental stewardship is crucial in a city like St. Pete, which is surrounded on three sides by water and with little undeveloped land.
“For a lot of kids that come through Clam Bayou’s education program, they may live only a mile or two from the water but never actually see it,” said Petty. “They don’t have the opportunities to get out beyond their immediate home and their school.”
Petty said having a place where children can wade into the water, collect samples and learn about the ecosystem helps spark their interest in environmental science. She said the center’s goal is to enhance children’s education curriculum in a real-world setting, and relayed reports of students pursuing careers in STEM fields due to positive experiences at Clam Bayou.
As a community leadership program, Petty stressed the importance of LSP classes giving back to their community each year. She said the class projects also offer a chance for participants to put their training to the test.
Petty called it a big project with many moving parts, and coming together to organize and raise a significant amount of money and awareness is part of the class experience. The planning committee and program chair set the task and completion date, and it is up to the class to accomplish the goal. As such, the design team is still working on the final details for the project.
“That’s part of their processes,” said Petty. “Working with the organization, finding out the wish list, figuring out the budget and what we think we’re going to raise, and then being able to accomplish that.
“It’s really a hands-on leadership experience for the class as well as a meaningful project for the nonprofit and the community.”
Petty said the class expects to complete enhancements to the center in May. For more information, visit the website here.