After Original Volunteer Avenues Close during the Pandemic, CSI Junior Finds a Way to Make a Difference

Ashley Roberts

Ashley Roberts, a junior in The Verrazano School Honors Program at CSI, and an English Linguistics major, is used to volunteering. She has participated in mission trips to Guatemala and Ireland to help communities in need, assisted with community projects in New York City, and also collected food for local pantries. Eventually, her focus shifted to improving the environment. As a Verrazano student and a former member of the year-long Emerging Leaders program, she dedicated time, helping to clean up the CSI campus, as well as local parks and beaches. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic came along and most of her original options to volunteer ceased to exist. Giving it some thought, Roberts came up with an idea.

“Since most volunteering was canceled,” she said, “I asked my leaders in Verrazano for permission to do volunteering outside of the organizations we would normally be expected to work with and do my own thing. Thankfully, they trusted me, and once I got permission, I was able to go out a few times when my boyfriend [Andrew Cheng] who was available to help me with cleaning up a few different parks and beaches on the Island.” The first few efforts netted approximately 16 bags of trash from places such as Willowbrook Park and Mount Loretto Park Beach.

Roberts is continuing this project, stating, “Every piece of trash we clean up creates a cleaner, safer, and more beautiful world for our community, environment, and ourselves. Everyone wins! I also hope, as my boyfriend and I do these projects, that it will encourage others to get involved. Maybe it will make people want to do something good for the environment or community, or simply make someone think twice before they litter. I actually have seen people get involved and it was so amazing!”

As for her own motivation for lending a much-needed hand, Roberts notes, “I think it’s extremely important for people to get involved, especially during a time of crisis, to help their communities. There is always a need, but add to it the chaos that a global pandemic causes and the need intensifies exponentially!”

After CSI, Roberts plans to pursue her Master’s in Speech pathology, but she also hopes to continue her community service after she receives her undergraduate degree, saying, “Everyone has a talent or passion. Why not use these talents and passions to do something amazing for good?”