|Dive Instructor, Kristen Ewen (far right) and students|
The Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service (VIMAS) newly introduced Scuba Diving Program began on September 22 with seven participants who obtained their open water scuba certification.
The training program is an extension of the annual 4-week marine science-based summer program, the Youth Ocean Explorers Summer Program held this past August.
|Student snorkeling at Coki Point Beach|
“We are adamant about finding ways to continue education for the YOE students post program. One such way is to engage students through scuba classes,” said YOE Project Director, Howard Forbes Jr.
|Youth Ocean Explorers (YOE) Project Director, Howard Forbes Jr.|
A second set of five students are expected to complete their open water certification by the end of October, 2018 bringing the total to 12 Virgin Islands students who will have received their certifications through the YOE Summer Program.
The scuba diving program which enables student to dive up to 60 feet is facilitated by the Coki Dive Shop.
|Dive Instructor, Kristin Ewen providing theoretical instruction to students|
As many of these students are interested in some aspect of marine science, the organizers of the Youth of Ocean Explorers (YOE) program have since been involving the students in various activities that have enabled them to continue to use their new skills.
“I personally believe that this opportunity will help to give them an advantage especially when trying to apply for internships and colleges in their related fields,” Forbes said.
Students have since been involved with the Coki Point cleanup which consisted of both a land and underwater based clean-up. Students attended the clean-up and assisted with the removal of underwater debris such as lawn chairs.
|Student removing debris from the ocean at Coki Point Beach|
Through a collaborative effort with the V.I. Reef Response program, students will be diving to Flat Cay and assisting with the general maintenance of the coral nursery there.
The V.I. Reef Response program is an initiative of the Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (VI-EPSCOR). Through this program a partnership has been established with local dive shops to recruit divers (both local and visiting) to assist with the maintenance of the coral nurseries.
“This is an amazing opportunity for the students as it is something that many Virgin Islanders don’t get an opportunity to do, said YOE Program Coordinator, Javon Stout.
|Youth Ocean Explorers (YOE) Program Coordinator, Javon Stout|
“This would provide youths of the Virgin Islands with opportunities to be considered for certain jobs such as underwater construction and marine operations that typically, due to their inability to swim or scuba they would otherwise not be considered for.”
The VIMAS coordinated program aims to remove the stigma and fear associated with the ocean by getting the youth acquainted with the ocean at an earlier age and thereby exposing them to the endless amount of opportunities that are available in the marine industry.
|Scuba diving students in training at Coki Point Beach|
The Program is of no charge to participants. However, interested students must be medically cleared for diving and will be required to complete a swimming test prior to their enrollment.
The program is sponsored in part by Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) and Saltchuk, parent company of Tropical Shipping.
For more information about the Scuba Diving Program, contact Howard Forbes Jr. at 340-693-1672 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.