First day of Clearwater Marine Aquarium

When I started my first semester at PCGS, I was taking core classes to learn everything I possibly could in order to be able to narrow down to concentrate on what means the most to me. I also wanted to take internship opportunities to gain field work. As I was discussing with my internship coordinator possibilities, she said PCGS started a partnership with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for internship opportunities. I felt this was a perfect fit for me! I applied for nonprofit management but ended up being accepted for dive operation team. After I found out I had been accepted, I cried from joy that the steps I took towards to that point is finally falling into place.

When I showed up at CMA for my first day of internship, I was really nervous about how to communicate with the team and my supervisor. It turned out they had a white board on the wall ready for communication as necessary. I was relieved by their thoughtfulness on alternative forms of communication. However, they went ahead with hands-on demonstration of what to do around CMA. I was surprised when they told me to put on a wetsuit, scuba dive equipment and get into the pool! The first pool we had to get into was the Sawyer’s Passage, filled with different turtles of various injuries.

They showed me the proper way to clean and the proper equipment to clean with. As I was observing the volunteer diver and their cleaning technique, I had a funny feeling. I went to look above and saw a humongous turtle aim for my hair that was flowing upwards! Their mouth was open and seemed ready to take a bite! In a panic, I moved backwards and circled around the turtle. The turtle still followed me, aiming for my hair. I didn’t realize my hair looked delicious to the turtle! It continued for 5 minutes, which was the longest 5 minutes of my life thus far. Finally, the other diver noticed and went to help gently push the turtle away from me. I signed to him, “thank you!” and he signed “welcome!”. Phew!

From that day on, I knew it would be exciting to work at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Starting my journey

My story with environmental advocacy began the day I found out about the BP oil spill in 2010. I was a simply naive 18 year old Florida native that thought the Earth has infinite resources and that it was impossible for humans to have a tremendous impact through our activities. As I watched the aftermath of the BP oil spill, I had heard of people finding oil balls on beaches along the Panhandle. I was livid at the thought of the beauty of the ocean and beaches being ruined by an oil spill that occurred miles away.

Few months later, my friends and I traveled from Tallahassee to Destin to have fun at the beach. I was so excited about getting some time at the beach! When we arrived there and set up our things, we finally got to go into the ocean. As my friend and I were floating and talking, I had not noticed anything at first until I saw a dark ball go by. Puzzled, we went to go investigate it. My friend had picked it up and it reeked of oil. We immediately made the connection to the BP oil spill that had occurred a few months back. I was livid that the oil balls were still in the ocean and that the BP company was not making effort to clean up the mess thoroughly. From there, my life changed.

I started researching different topics regarding climate change from that point on, but was always overwhelmed by the complexity of perspectives and approaches, as well as problems. I would talk about it with friends when I attended Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. I also joined as a member to Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, and Green Gallaudet Club. I tried my best to get involved however I could with nonprofit organizations volunteering my time and efforts throughout college and after. But I always craved for more involvement. I felt I was not doing enough.

It was not until I went to Climate Reality conference in Miami, FL that I felt a calling. Spending time with empowered activists, business leaders, climate change experts and environmental educators inspired me to explore different paths that I could connect with. As I was watching my interpreter interpret Al Gore’s comment on the growth of green economy regarding solar jobs, renewable energy innovations, and job creations, that comment stuck to my mind for some reason I couldn’t identify at first. But at that point, I knew I had to learn more about what the green economy pillars is made up of.

“I tried my best to get involved however I could with nonprofit organizations volunteering my time and efforts throughout college. But I always craved for more involvement. I felt I was not doing enough.”

Afterwards, I went to a different conference hosted by the National Association for the Deaf that was focused on language acquisition, improving educational opportunities, and removing barriers to job opportunities. As I discussed with different people at the conference, I noticed a common barrier faced by deaf people which is that job opportunities and job training are not readily accessible for the deaf to take initiative on. At that point, I was able to make the connection of addressing a social issue experienced in my community and turning that into job opportunities that could also promote the growth of green economy in the United States. That connection led me to Patel College of Global Sustainability, thus I am here today to study Sustainable Entrepreneurship.

I am very excited to be here and share my journey with you all.