Students from three universities and a church group came to the Florida Keys this week for spring break, but it's not about partying on Duval Street.
The volunteers from the University of Florida, Barry University and Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania are in the Keys cleaning up beaches and mangroves, working on a Habitat for Humanity construction project and helping a homeless outreach group.
Students with the college ministry Spirit of Joy in Orlando are also working with the Lower Keys chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
Twelve students with the University of Florida's Florida Alternative Breaks (FAB), a student-run organization, volunteered with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary this week, removing trash from the mangroves and islands of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. The students spent Wednesday at Geiger Key cleaning up the beaches.
"A big part of Keys tourism is the beaches and the coral reefs," said trip leader Keith Foos, a biology major.
"If they (visitors) see beaches littered with trash, they are less likely to come back ... . Those ecosystems are sensitive to the types of changes that are brought on from trash."
Foos humbly credited his fellow trip leader, Stefany Stanbury, for the success of their mission in the Keys.
The students will also be working with Reef Relief to paint stencils on storm drains in Key West pointing out that what people "put down the drains goes directly to the sea," sanctuary spokeswoman Karrie Carnes said.
Members of Barry University's Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program are also in Key West for their annual service trip.
The students are volunteering with the Star of the Sea Foundation, which provides outreach services for the homeless and others in need of food and housing assistance.
They are working in the Star of the Sea's food pantry, sorting and arranging items in the warehouse and serving meals.
Susquehanna University students spent Wednesday building a new fence at a Habitat for Humanity housing complex at the corner of Newton Street and Eisenhower Drive.
A group from Spirit of Joy also participated in the Habitat project on Wednesday.