Caye Caulker Ocean Academy High School's Aquatic Tourism Program has won the prestigious Beyond Sports 2014 Award in the category Sport for Education (sponsored by UNICEF). The Beyond Sport Awards celebrate and reward the best projects from around the world that use sport to bring about positive social change. Ocean Academy's project was selected from 350 entries spanning 70 countries. School founders Joni Miller and Heidi Curry were invited to Johannesburg, South Africa October 28-30 for the Awards ceremony and they represented Belize on an international panel addressing the theme of how sports can inspire youth to become leaders in their communities.
Shortly after the Beyond Sport recognition, Ocean Academy students were again honored with a prestigious award, this time from the Belize Department of Youth Services. Students accepted a National Youth Award that recognizes the Environmental aspect of the Aquatic Tourism Program, as well as the school's other small business venture: culinary herb sales by the Compost & Gardening Club.
Aquatic Tourism Programme
Ocean Academy was founded in 2008 as Caye Caulker’s first high school. In addition to traditional high-school subjects, all students select an elective and P.E. (physical education) class each semester. Students who select Aquatic Tourism are mentored by skilled tour guides and earn valuable certifications in kayaking, scuba diving, fly fishing or windsurfing, all at no cost thanks for strong partnerships with local tour operators. Workshops in entrepreneurship, marine biology, first aid, tour guiding, communication and leadership skills complement the P.E. program.
Sandie Betz-Eisenberg says that “as soon as my son Spenser saw the video of the Aquatic Tourism classes he exclaimed, ‘That’s where I want to go to school!’ His marine biology and especially fly fishing classes have given him the opportunity to pursue his passion for the sea and to get credit for it at the same time. Ocean Academy has been instrumental in connecting Spenser with people who can help him to follow and live his dreams. I believe that we couldn't ask for more than that, as that is what every parent wishes for their children”.
Ocean Academy's "With Purpose Tours" adds an entrepreneurial element to the Aquatic Tourism Program. Trained students accompany visitors by kayak, bike or fishing rod around Caye Caulker and interpret the marine and terrestrial ecosystems and sites from the perspective of the island youth. Visitor fill out evaluation forms after each trip that assist administrators in designing follow-up training sessions for student leaders, and trip donations are credited to the student's school fees, family income, and school scholarship fund. The Aquatic Tourism Program highlights the positive impact that location-based learning can have on a student’s future employment possibilities and the likelihood to remain in school once he/she is engaged in real-world interactions and learning.
Parent Johnny Cantun Sr. recalls that "since Johnny Jr. was a little boy he has loved fishing. That’s one of the reasons I put him here at this high school. Ocean Academy has classes in fly fishing, scuba, kayak, marine biology. It’s what the island needs. Johnny loves fishing but now he also wants to be an architect and he enjoys learning how to make mobile apps in computer class. Ocean Academy is the best school for me to send my son so that he learns skills that will benefit himself, his future, and also the island".
The Beyond Sport Award and National Youth Award are among several success stories for Ocean Academy students. Since 2009, 36 students have certified as PADI Open Water scuba divers, 19 are advanced divers, and two alumni are Dive Masters. Six students and one administrator enrolled in a month-long night class for tour guides and community members, in 2012, to learn how to set transects and conduct surveys of invertebrates, juvenile fish, corals, commercial fish and marine mammals. They graduated as Community Reef Technicians. The Department of Youth Services awarded Ocean Academy student Kyle Requena the 2013 National Youth in Tourism Award. After graduation Kyle worked alongside his mentor to compete in an international fly-fishing tournament and he is now an assistant fly-fishing instructor with Ocean Academy.
“Ocean Academy has created many opportunities for students to get involved in the tourism industry here on Caye Caulker, from conducting beach cleanups to sharing local knowledge of island ecosystems with visitors,” says Joni Miller, school Founder and Projects Director. “These mentorships and entrepreneurial opportunities not only attract non-traditional students to enroll in high school, but also help our students improve their overall set of professional skills that are transferable to any career or educational path they may follow”.
Aquatic Sport opportunities for Ocean Academy students are possible thanks to partnerships with Caye Caulker tour operators who freely volunteer their time, expertise and resources to mentor local youth. Ocean Academy extends a heart-felt thank you to Toucan Canoe and Kayaks (kayaking), Belize Diving Services (scuba diving), Anglers Abroad (fly-fishing), Dane Dingerson (windsurfing), and the Forest and Marine Reserves Association of Caye Caulker (reef and mangrove ecology). Beyond Sport and UNICEF join a growing list of international sponsors of Ocean Academy’s Aquatic Tourism program: the Embassy of the United States, Belmopan (CARSI grant for alternative livelihoods and training for youth), Kenco Outdoor Equipment Store in New York State and Jackson Kayak in Tennessee.
Nick Keller, Founder of Beyond Sport concluded the Johannesburg Summit and Awards with the message that “all our winners represent the very best in leadership both in society and their own communities. Amongst all the remarkable work, the winners have demonstrated innovation and impact at an exceptional level and are an inspiration to all; we hope winning today further strengthens the incredible work they have already achieved”.
School Supply Drive: The Belize Association of Houston is hosting a big school supply drive. They have teamed up with Belize Freight to ship much-needed supplies free of charge to Ocean Academy. There is a wishlist posted that includes desktop computers, printers, file cabinets, display cases, art supplies etc. Items must be received before July 31st to make the August barge departure. "Contact Us" on the school website for more information (and see attached poster and website link).
Annual Science Fair draws crowds: Children from the primary school were curious and impressed as Ocean Academy students demonstrated concepts such as flubber, fireworks in a bottle, keeping cool and of course, the ever-popular volcano eruptions.
Sports Day: Community members and tourists lined the beach to watch Ocean Academy students compete in sandcastle building, water runs to fill bottles with sponges, sack races, tug-o-war, slowest bike races and water balloon toss. In addition to being great fun, student teams showed sportsmanship and team spirit.
Graduation Ceremony and Scholarship Awards are June 13-14th - Are you planning a trip to Caye Caulker? Next weekend is the ideal time! Our next report will feature photos of this year's proud graduating class of 2014. Your donations and support were very important in helping many of these students reach the graduation stage. Thank you for continuing to care about the education of Caye Caulker youth. Your donations, and scholarship pledges, are truly appreciated.
Students eat fire and walk over broken glass
"Make It Happen", "Do your best the first time" and "Crazy people succeed" were messages shared by high-energy motivational speaker Bert Oliva with Ocean Academy students last week. To demonstrate the power of self-confidence and mind over matter, students were invited to eat fire and walk on glass. They did it! They can do anything!
Kyle Requena wins National Award for Youth in Tourism
Kyle excels in Ocean Academy's Aquatic Tourism Physical Education (P.E.). He is a certified Advanced Scuba Diver, Community Reef Technician, skilled kayaker and keen fly-fisherman. Kyle shares his love of Caye Caulker, marine eco-systems and aquatic sports with visitors and he is well deserving of this national honour. Congratulations!
Dr. Corinth Morter Lewis is Ocean Academy's Counsellor
Ocean Academy is very fortunate to have one of Belize's most experienced counsellors working with our students on campus every Thursday and Friday. Mothers and fathers packed the room for Dr. Lewis's first parent evening workshop: "How to Communicate with your Teenager".
Dr. Lewis was born in Belize City, educated in Belize and the U.S., and earned her PhD in Alberta, Canada. She is a chartered psychologist, President Emeritus and current adjunct professor with the University of Belize. Dr. Lewis's position at Ocean Academy is funded by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan.
Students share dreams via skype with Peter Strople and Caterina Barregar
Students shared their career dreams this week with two of Ocean Academy friends and supporters; Peter Strople is known as the "most connected man in America" and former director with Dell Computer Corps, and Caterina Barregar helps people with Imagine Life Coaching.
Elvis wants to be a marine mechanic; Mathew likes computer programming; Anisa dreams of a life in the performing arts; Lilly wants to study law; Sean wants to be an engineer; Evelio hopes to be a pilot; Saira plans to become an architect; Kimberly is intrigued by a career as a detective; Annabella wants to run a hotel and Ashtashia would like to be a pastry chef. These are just some of the dreams and aspirations that Ocean Academy students expressed.
Peter and Caterina plan to connect students with career mentors and help them along the path of realizing their dreams.
"Kayak with Purpose" Entrepreneurial Program gets a new fleet
Our six brand-new school kayaks have arrived! Thank you to Jackson Kayaks, Kenco and a CARSI grant from the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan.
Visitors can book a kayak trip with Kyle Requena and other trained students for an island youth's interpretation of Caye Caulker. Highlights include visting a seahorse colony, feeding tarpon, exploring mangrove ecosystems and seeing the entrance to an underwater cave. Earnings support the students' families, school tuition and school.
The photo attached to this report shows our inagural trip in the new Jackson kayaks with students from Stevenson School, California (our partner as a NOAA Ocean Guardian School).
We're ready for Back to School with freshly painted classrooms, repaired furniture, and a clean campus. An attractive and welcoming school, we feel, encourages students to take pride in their campus and creates a positive learning environment. How did we do it all in just three days? Through the power of community teamwork and volunteerism! This was the Beautification Team:
It is with great pride that we introduce you, our supporters and friends, to Ocean Academy's graduating class of 2013! Family, teachers, community members and friends joined together on June 13th to celebrate the achievements of Caye Caulker newest high-school graduates. Your support has played a huge role in this wonderful milestone moment. We know you were all there with us in spirit (and some of you even made the trip to Belize!).
Your ten 2013 graduates are: Ireni Alpuche, Elmir Arana, Monica Barrera (Vote of Thanks), Michael Blease (Valedictorian), Zeida Chan, Stephanie Chuc, Denzel Co, Idalia Delgado, Yvon Noralez and Shania Sanchez (Saludatorian).
Our 2013 class already has big plans for next year. Nine students have been accepted into the University of Belize and St.John's Junior College. They plan to study diverse fields such as Visual Arts and Graphic Design, Business, Science and Tourism Studies. We know that you are as proud as we are of these young Belizean men and women, and join us in wishing each and every one the very brightest of futures.
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