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Volunteer News
Intern helping protect Pinellas County’s watersheds
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Danielle Passerello says she enjoyed many benefits during her internship with the Watershed Management Division, Pinellas County’s Department of Environment and Infrastructure. She also helped protect the county’s waterways through special projects.
There are a wide variety of reasons why a person may decide to do volunteer work. For some it’s simply looking to stay active after retirement. For others it’s the joy of being able to help others in their community. Or perhaps it’s having special skills and talents to share with others.

For Danielle Passerello, it began while attending the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. Passerello’s major was environmental science and as a requirement to receive her bachelor’s degree, she had to complete a project or intern in the environmental field. With the help of the university, she became a volunteer intern for the Pinellas County Watershed Management Division, of the Department of Environmental and infrastructure.

Passerello said she has always “loved the environment, the outdoors and science in general,” so getting a degree that deals with the environment and working in the field was a natural. The concern for the environment led to concerns about pollution.

She notes that all of the stormwater drainage goes into the local waterways and not to the wastewater treatment facility. Runoff of fertilizers, pesticides and hazardous materials, along with oil and grease from vehicles, are just a few of the contributors to polluted waterways.

Over the summer, Passerello assisted the county in increasing the public’s awareness of the dangers caused by people polluting the environment and waterways. Twice she was able to actually collect samples of water around the county to be tested. She didn’t mind getting dirty at all and wished her schedule had allowed her to do more of it.

Passerello enjoyed her internship with the Watershed Management Division. Not only did she get to help the environment, but also she met a number of very nice people. And she has made some great contacts, which she hopes will help her in her quest to land a job.

“Jobs are so scarce right now, so working for the county with people that are in the field helps tremendously. They may know someone or some department that you didn’t know even existed, so its’ been great,” she said.

She admits though that having just recently graduated from USF, gotten remarried and moving to Seminole, she hasn’t had much time to actively seek a job but plans to do so in the coming year.

“I’ve kept my face out there and my feelers and am confident,” she said.

Natasha Dickrell, Environmental specialist II with Pinellas County Watershed Management, said Passerello was great to have helping out the department.

“We looked forward to her internship days since she jumped right in to whatever we needed her to do and exceeded our expectations with every task. She had a great attitude and showed that she could lead other volunteers and helped others get excited about what she was working on,” Dickrell said.

Dickrell said Watershed Management coordinates a variety of programs that include environmental monitoring, permitting, planning, restoration and enforcement. They determine the number of interns needed each semester and recruit through local colleges and through Pinellas County Volunteer Services. Dickrell points out “our goal is to provide a learning environment as we expose them to a variety of opportunities and experiences.”

Pinellas County volunteers can expect to make a difference in the life of their community, while exploring interests, sharing knowledge, assisting others and making friends. For more information, visit, email or call 464-VIPS (8477).

This article was submitted by Pinellas County Communications.
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