LAWRENCE — On Saturday, Jamiel Ortiz donned a cap, gown and honors stole and graduated from Salem State University.
Come Sunday morning, Ortiz, 24, was on the banks of the Merrimack River leading a volunteer cleanup effort.
Ortiz was among 30 volunteers who collected trash, debris, clothing and used hypodermic needles found in Pemberton Park - where a fishing tournament is planned for June 1.
The fishing tournament is run by Salt Addiction Fishing, which is led by Ortiz, a Lawrence firefighter, and co-founder, Ricky Frias.
The two have organized the fishing tournaments for the past four years to showcase fishing and to underscore worthwhile activities in the city of Lawrence.
"We just want to bring positivity to the city," said Ortiz, noting some people are hesitant to come to the event in Lawrence. Some people are concerned about their cars being stolen, Ortiz said.
Pemberton Park is located between the Central and Falls bridges and has long been known as a fishing hot spot.
Volunteers worked for three hours Sunday morning, loading up an entire dumpster with trash and collecting about 90 used hypodermic needles left in the area. The needles were discarded in sharps containers.
Ortiz said most the garbage appeared to be clothing discarded in the area by the homeless.
On June 1, registration for the fishing tournament starts at 4 a.m. and fishing begins at 4:30 a.m.
Cash prizes and trophies are up for grabs in the shad and striped bass competitions, Ortiz said.
All involved will meet that morning at the boat ramp in Pemberton Park.
“We’ll be in Pemberton Park. Right at the boat ramp,” he said.
As many as 70 anglers are expected this year. The tournament is open to anyone who wants to come and watch.
Anglers must be age 15 or older “because of the challenges the river presents,” Ortiz said.
A Van Staal fishing reel valued at $800 is top tournament raffle prize this year. The reel was donated by Ortiz and Frias.
Raffle proceeds are being donated to the Victoria Abreu, a young girl battling leukemia.
While he finished his studies last semester, Ortiz on Saturday graduated from Salem State University with his bachelor's degree in public administration.
He is already pursuing a master's degree at Anna Maria College and hopes to obtain his doctorate at UMass Lowell in the future, he said.
"I try to get a lot done at a fast pace," Ortiz said.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.