2022 Volunteer Awards at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

Volunteer Awards

Volunteer Kya Small-Brush 

Kya Small-Brush is the recipient of the 2022 Youth Volunteer of the Year Award for Resource Management.

Kya Small-Brush, 14, is a dedicated and passionate volunteer who has been coming to John D. MacArthur Beach State Park since she was 8 years old for summer camp programs, park visits and beach cleanups.

Since 2020, she has participated in the monthly Junior Friends program for middle school and high school students. Kya has participated in our Citizen Science Marine Debris Program, cleaning up the beach and mangroves, conducting bird surveys and reporting them to eBird, and painting stakes that are used to mark sea turtle nests at the park.

In 2022, she volunteered more than 45 hours. She also attends monthly beach cleanups with family and friends. She highlights the park and its programs for her school assignments. Last summer, she volunteered as a counselor-in-training for summer camp.

With her welcoming and kind personality, Kya has been a wonderful role model for campers and an integral part of our Junior Friends group.

Kya has a strong work ethic that reflects in her volunteer time at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park. She has created friendships in Junior Friends and brought in new volunteers to the group as well. She is upbeat, kind, and dedicated - making anyone who works with her feel welcome.

She is someone you can rely on. Kya is always ready to help where it is needed. We are excited to continue to work with her and see what she accomplishes next as she continues to volunteer at the park!

Volunteer Kya Small-Brush

Volunteer Rafael Noriega

Rafael Noriega is the recipient of the 2022 Long-Term Project of the Year for Historic Resources.

Filmmaker Rafael Noriega started volunteering at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in 2019. His film “Island in Time” was first produced in the 1990s and showcases the plants, animals and landscapes within the park and tells the story of the area’s natural history.

This film is seen by 5,000 students each year, grades 1-12, as a pre-visit activity before coming to the park on a field trip. Each class views this film online to introduce students to the habitats that they will be visiting and learning about. This video is also shown in our park Nature Center Theatre, where thousands of visitors view the film annually. The film is one of the most comprehensive overviews of the park and is easily accessible so anyone can learn about the park.

In 2019, Rafael started work to update the video. He has devoted more than 300 hours of volunteer service into filming a new version. This new enhancement of the film is immeasurable – the quality of the 4K filming, ultraviolet light at night capabilities, advance cameras and beautiful cinematography make this film so much more enjoyable to watch and captures the beauty of the park.

Rafael’s care and dedication to make the film as good as it can be is astonishing. With thousands of dollars invested with this in-kind donation, this film will be used for the park for many years to come. 

Rafael has been a joy to work with – kind, generous, professional, with a true passion for nature.

Rafael Noriega with his camera.

Volunteer Bruce Kay

Bruce Kay is the recipient of the 20 Years of Service Award.

Since 2002, Bruce Kay has been a volunteer at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, where he has contributed more than 1,780 hours of volunteer time.

Bruce helps with the turtle walk programs and serves as a docent in the Nature Center. He currently volunteers in the ranger station.

Bruce teaches the public the basics and safety of kayaking and snorkeling in our land-based courses. He is also very knowledgeable about reef fish and has assisted our Great Annual Fish Count every year. He has even taught many rangers and CSO staff how to kayak more efficiently as a certified kayaking instructor! He is extremely dependable and is always at the park ready to assist in any way he can.

Not only does he know the flora and fauna of the park, but he can speak to how they interact with each other, how important it is to preserve and protect these places, and how visitors can take everyday action to help. Bruce always represents the park with pride. His positivity radiates whenever he talks with staff and when he tells visitors about recreational activities and other ways to enjoy the park.

Bruce Kay working in the Nature Center.

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