The Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) is celebrating a milestone anniversary for the Young Environmentalist Leadership Course (YELC) in 2022 – 10 years of running an important program that trains and prepares young Caymanians for careers in science marine/conservation or dive tourism/water sports industry.
According to CCMI, YELC takes a small cohort of participants through intensive hands-on experience over several months and across multiple islands each year, providing them with knowledge, dive training, soft skills and on-the-ground experience to help them embark on the next stage as they complete their studies.
CCMI said that tThe support of YELC program sponsors – Foster’s, Cayman National and Go Pro Diving – since the program began has provided over 90 participants with full tuition scholarships that cover scuba training fees, flights to/from Little Cayman , accommodation at the Little Cayman Research Center, diving and other costs associated with the experience.
Woody Foster, Managing Director of Foster’s, explained why Fosters has supported the YELC program from the start.
Coral reefs are so important to the health of the Cayman ecosystem. We are delighted to continue to support CCMI’s efforts to educate young people and the general public about the issues that affect the marine environment of our islands and what we, as a people, can do to protect and restore it. .
Applications for the 2022 YELC program are currently being accepted by the CCMI until March 31, 2022. This program is open to Caymanian students or PR holders, ages 16-20, who wish to pursue a career in marine science or the dive tourism/water sports industry. Interested students must first apply to the CCMI and then participate in an interview process.
What happens in the program?
During the first part of the program, YELC participants complete their PADI dive training in Grand Cayman with Go Pro Diving. All students then attend a 10-day hands-on, immersive experience at Little Cayman Research Center from July 12-21, 2022. During this time, they will work on field projects, participate in night dives, experience dissections of lionfish, will attend CV workshops and job interview simulations, help with ongoing CCMI research, learn about local environmental and conservation issues and interact with professionals from various companies and organizations in related fields.
Commenting on the program, CCMI Director of Research Dr Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley said:
CCMI created this program to develop skilled and enthusiastic Environmental Ambassadors while filling an important gap for local students who may not have access to post-secondary education in the Cayman Islands. Participants complete the course leaving with tangible scuba and emergency rescuer qualifications, as well as real-world skills-based experience that not only helps guide them in the future, but also provides excellent credentials for resumes and interviews with potential educators or employers.
Recognizing that there was a need in Cayman to support local students who were interested in careers in related fields, CCMI created YELC to provide this opportunity. After nearly a decade, CCMI is seeing YELC alumni move into professional roles in the fields of dive tourism and environmental science in the Cayman Islands. As part of the commitment to these students in 2022, CCMI will run a more active YELC alumni experience, maintaining contact with participants, providing opportunities to practice diving skills and providing extensive support. as students pursue their careers on the island.
Additional information about YELC can be found on the CCMI website (www.reefresearch.org); the application can be downloaded from https://tinyurl.com/YELC2022. Students wishing to participate in the program should complete and submit their application package to the CCMI Education Department at [email protected]. Interviews will take place in April and successful participants will be notified shortly thereafter.
Regarding the experience and knowledge gained through the program, YELC 2018 alumnus Uton Whittaker said:
This program has given me so many networking opportunities for my future in watersports in Cayman. Everyone should apply for this program and take advantage of the amazing opportunity offered by CCMI. It allows people like me growing up on an island to experience the underwater world.
For more information about CCMI, the YELC program, and other training programs available at CCMI, visit www.reefresearch.org.