It is often said that, “the sky is the limit” but for Youth Ocean Explorer (YOE) students, the ocean is limitless as they continue to be successful even beyond the shores of the Virgin Islands. Maura Richardson is one such student whose demonstrated passion for marine science saw her completing a two-week training with the Diving With a Purpose (DWP) program in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
|Richardson at DWP|
Richardson’s active and outstanding participation in YOE in 2017 and 2018 elevated her to being the qualified, to meet the eligibility requirements of the DWP. She is the first student from St. Thomas to participate in this program. However, Howard Forbes Jr., YOE director said that this year simply marks the beginning of their participation in this annual program.
“This is a tremendous achievement for Maura as she is only 15-years-old,” Forbes said. “She has more scuba diving accolades than I have and that is incredible,” he stated. “ It is my goal to provide opportunities like these to young, aspiring marine biologists so that by the time they decide to enroll at college, they have all the necessary experience to be one step ahead of the game.”
“This year was my first time taking part in this program and it was extravagant,” Richardson said. “Taking part in this program allowed me, a little island girl, to meet new people from different parts of the world and gain new knowledge every day. “DWP is an amazing program,” Maura emphatically stated. “It is no summer camp or like any summer program, this program is a world-wide experience exposing all young minds to different cultures and religions.”
Reflecting on the sessions she participated in, Richardson said that Coral Restoration week and Archeology week both offered new information that she is now able to share with people in the Virgin Islands. “In the first week, I participated in the Coral Restoration program and many people would think that someone from an island would know all the information there is to know about corals but I actually learned a lot of new things about the same types of coral living around my island,” Richardson said. “I learned better ways to identify coral, how to clean and plant coral. Coral is needed they are more than just pretty objects, they are living organisms,” she added.
|Richardson recording coral health metrics|
|Richardson cleaning staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis)|
The second week of the program was geared toward archeology, which Richardson said revealed her liking for history. “This last week was a test on our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) skills,” she said. “We put art into history and we took history from the ocean floor.”
“This program was more than just work and studies, it was also about connecting,” Richardson said, speaking of the networking opportunities the program provided. “All of our mentors and instructors gave up their time to help us, the youth, to gain more and new knowledge for free and I appreciated that,” she said.
|Richardson interacting at DWP|
“I hope that next year will be an amazing year that will bring new fresh young minds with new and valuable information and knowledge,” she said speaking of the 2020 DWP.
Richardson is an aspiring Marine Biologist. To date, she is scuba certified and has at minimum, 20 dive experiences. She is also open water and advanced open water scuba certified.
Through the kind sponsorship of Tropical Shipping and Lana Vento, she was provided scuba diving equipment to include a Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) and a dive computer.
|Richardson using a data sheet|
DWP is a leading international organization that provides education and training programs, mission leadership, and project support services for submerged heritage preservation and conservation projects worldwide with a focus on the African Diaspora.