Sea Scope Inc- Empowering Youth as Underwater Explorers
By Allyson Brown
How My Adventure Began
I remember how devastated I was when my flight to Puerto Plata was canceled. COVID-19 shut down was not supposed to affect ME. I was thankful to have not lost any loved ones and thankful I was able to financially sustain myself, but what I did not anticipate was losing my “freedom.” Freedom, for me, was being able to hop on a plane and to do one of the most calming activities I’ve ever experienced…scuba diving. Being in a landlocked state, I needed to travel to get to the ocean. Finally in 2020, I was able to return to Puerto Plata and dive! To my surprise one of my favorite SDI instructors asked me when I told him I was headed down the path of Master Diver, “why not teach?” Luke, owner of Superior Dive Sosua, had no idea that he had planted a seed. A seed that began to grow a few months later when I decided to become a Divemaster. Towards the end of my training I noticed something had changed within me. The 16 years of anxiety I had suffered was completely gone. I sat at Carlyle Bay beach, Barbados and this revelation came to me as well as a vision to develop a youth program in Indianapolis that would give black and brown kids the opportunity to become underwater explorers! A conservation focused program that combines science, aquatics, and water wellness therapy. And so Sea Scope Inc was established in the summer of 2021.
Welcome New Planet Savers!
February 2022 was the beginning of this new adventure I decided to embark upon. An adventure that began with classroom workshops teaching youth about our ocean planet and watching kids’ faces light up during activities, such as taping all the single-use plastic I could find onto their mentor. These workshops concluded with a trip to the Oceans Exhibit and Dolphin show at the Indianapolis Zoo. One thing I know is that all of our youth participants will remember how land-based, plastic pollution affects our planet. My new adventure also continued with water safety, snorkeling, and intro to scuba diving (for those that qualified) classes. There is an indescribable joy these kids have when they have the opportunity to “play in the pool.” This component of the program is what interests most parents, especially since 65% of African Americans are unable to swim, with drowning disparities being significantly higher amongst African American youth than their white counterparts. And so far, this new adventure has resulted in our planet having 21 new ocean explorers: 14 [junior] open water scuba divers (ages 10 to 18), 3 supervised divers, 1 scuba diver, and 5 snorkelers.
The Freedom Water Brings
The youth Discoverers program not only gave our divers and snorkelers a new self confidence, but also new friendships, and for many an outlet for stress, anxiety, and trauma. Many of our participants understand that “water is therapeutic.” One of our participants who was faced with the death of their mother mid-programming stated that the water helped them “deal with fear and anger. It holds them in a way their mother no longer can.” To see how happy and at peace these youth are when in the pool, and how they become “FREE” of their problems and situations is worth EVERY moment spent developing and maintaining our youth programs.
Of our 21 Discoverers, two youth completed their certifications in a local quarry, while the others completed their training in the Florida Keys! Several of the youth had never been on a plane, seen the ocean, or a man-made beach for that matter. I get excited when I see their faces the moment they step onto the boat, the moment they first see the ocean, and the moment they take a giant stride into an experience they would have never imagined they’d experience. From that first moment off the boat and after their first underwater adventure where they have seen nurse sharks, rays, a beautiful variety of reef fish and other aquatic life is the meaningful connection they need to desire to become planet savers and continue this Discoverers path!
We ALL Must Play Our Part
As I write this blog I am trying to fight back the tears. These aren’t tears of sadness but tears of joy. Our first AquaForce participant is beginning her 7 month training to become a Master Scuba Diver Trainer. She never imagined having a career before the age of 19 and has dreamed of studying our oceans since she was 3 years old. Many of our other Discoverers will be trained as citizen scientists and scientific divers to help us combat this global crisis that requires the entire world’s help. All youth from all backgrounds deserve every opportunity that will allow them to cultivate their talents and that connect them to a world that’s bigger than they could have known. We are excited to make these opportunities available for Marion County and welcome this new breed of underwater adventurers into the conservation world. As we gear up for their continued training and our new class of Discoverers, we stay true to the commitment we made in doing OUR part to saving our ocean plant. Won’t you join our efforts? Because the fate of our oceans depend on it!
Dr. Allyson Fisher Brown is an SDI Divemaster located in Indianapolis, Indiana. To keep up with a new wave of youth ocean discoverers, check out their website and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.