Like all Sail Caribbean programs, Sierra Tropical Marine Science inspires students. It helps them recognize that whatever they set their minds and hearts on is a goal that can become a reality. Steven Viegas and Elise McBride, two Sierra students who were inspired to pursue their interests, decided to attend Eckerd College’s Marine Biology program.
As a returning Sail Caribbean student and a marine science enthusiast, Steven made every effort to understand the marine ecosystems and learn how to help protect and preserve them. Throughout the Sierra Program, he showed his willingness to push his comfort zone and learn new skill sets. He led his peers in many projects including Coral Watch and REEF Fish Surveys. Steven also developed and presented a lesson on the health and importance of local coral reefs, and helped lead an activity for local BVI Youth Empowerment Project students. Unsure at first, Steven pushed his comfort zone and grew tremendously.
Elsie also demonstrated her great enthusiasm for learning. With commitment, cheer and ambition she set a high standard for her peers to look up to. Her positive attitude and motivation helped to further inspire both students and staff. Elsie helped with multiple research projects and was exemplary with all her written and presented work. Her potential was clear to all who met her. It was evident that she was committed and devoted in all her endeavors.
These two students were a tremendous asset not only to the program, but to their peers and instructors as well. After Sierra, Elsie and Steven decided to pursue marine biology as a larger part of their life. In preparation, they each requested letters of recommendation from their Sierra instructors in pursuit of acceptance into Eckerd College’s Marine Studies program. Eckerd College is small liberal arts school based in St. Petersburg on the eastern coast of Florida known for its Marine and Environmental studies programs. Both Elsie and Steven have been notified of their acceptance into Eckerd and are very excited to begin courses next month. Laurie and I, instructors on the 2010 Sierra Program, are very proud and know Elise and Steven will continue to accomplish great things.
A Successful New Program
Working as an instructor for Sail Caribbean is a highly rewarding job. The programs are dynamic and progressive and are geared to help young adults realize their goals and build life skills. In 2010, Sierra Tropical Marine Science was launched. Its goal was to take advantage of the natural resources available in the BVI and provide an in-depth, hands-on marine science program. Sierra provides a foundation for students like Elsie and Steven who have a passion for marine science. It advances students’ knowledge and understanding of the world’s oceans and builds in them a commitment to become a good steward of the seas. Last summer, students just like Elsie and Steven proved time and again that they were willing to devote hours and energy toward the goals they set for themselves.
Sail Caribbean spent a great deal of time analyzing the Sierra program’s success. There are many ways that success can be measured and, with a holistic view, we did our best to account for all of them. We received student feedback while we were running the program and again once it ended. Using that feedback, combined with demonstration of understanding through review sessions, we are able to measure student satisfaction and achievement. We found the happiness, motivation and ambition of the students, as well as group dynamics and cohesion was altogether positive.
Challenge and Reward
Working as an educator can be challenging. There are many factors determining the joy instructors and educators derive from their work. The greatest factor is the positive relationship formed with students. This friendship brings the most inspiration to our work. Every educator wants to see students achieve their goals and succeed. As a Sail Caribbean instructor, the relationships and friendships that form are stronger and last longer than ever anticipated. Making these friendships and knowing the work we do has such a positive impact on the lives of our students is profound and rewarding beyond measure. The pride that comes when we see our students challenge themselves, apply what they learn with us, and continue to pursue goals afterward is what drives us to do the best that we can as mentors.
Knowing that our work has impacted the lives of Elsie and Steven is a perfect example of the driving force behind our choice to teach. I am proud to have helped inspire and intrigue these young adults, and wishes them well in all their future ventures. May the wind be at their back, the sun on their face and may they always find a safe port at night!
By: Graham Benton, Sierra Captain