Dr. Allyson Fisher has witnessed amazing transformations: watching children undergo training to become full-fledged scuba divers.
They acquire skills through SeaScope Inc., a non-profit organization she founded to increase diversity in science and aquatics, instill a sense of environmental stewardship, and leverage water-related skills for mental well-being. It serves underrepresented and at-risk children from partner organizations.
“To see their faces light up or the joy that comes from them when they’re in the water, I mean, it’s priceless,” Fisher said.
The experience of his students is similar to his. Fisher grew up in the city’s northwest, fell in love with science and felt especially welcome in programs for underrepresented students. She graduated from Indiana University and became an optometrist.
While working remotely during the pandemic, Fisher traveled and completed advanced scuba diving training in Barbados and the Dominican Republic. The anxiety she had felt for 16 years dissipated.
During his training, someone asked him: Why don’t you teach?
Fisher founded Sea Scope in 2021 and classes officially began in January this year. Its name houses the branches of its mission: the S in “Scope” stands for science, and the other letters follow with chemistry, optics and other physical, physiological and environmental sciences. The coping part refers to the mental health benefits of water.
“I feel like God just passed on this vision that you should come up with a program to introduce young children, minority children who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, to ocean science, ocean exploration , underwater exploration, aquatics and obviously science,” Fisher said.
The Sea Scope phases eased the kids into the process a bit at a time via swimming pools around Indianapolis before heading to scuba diving spots elsewhere. They start with classroom workshops on the ocean and a trip to the Indianapolis Zoo before moving on to pool sessions that teach water safety, snorkeling, rhythmic breathing and introductory scuba diving. marine, among other subjects.
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Fisher then determines which students are eligible to move into the ocean environment, which includes learning more scuba diving skills, earning certifications, and exploring underwater careers.
Derrell Johnson, who participates in the Sea Scope program, obtained his Junior Open Water Scuba Diver certification this year with Scuba School International in Tavernier in the Florida Keys. There he saw nurse sharks, fish, coral and the Benwood shipwreck which he described as unreal – like in movies and TV shows.
“The water makes me feel calm, relaxed and it takes everything I think about – it just makes it disappear and stuff,” said Derrell, 14.
He plans to return with the program in 2023 to explore his new career focus: underwater photography. Derrell would love to show off the beauty and calm of the ocean, and his advice to others is to learn more about water skills.
“If you want to do it, put your mind to it and don’t back down. Even if you don’t like it, at least try to feel it,” Derrell said. “Maybe if you don’t like it and you do it and you like it, that might change your mind.”
What is the mission of your organization?
Sea Scope integrates diversity into science, aquatics and marine conservation. It teaches at-risk and underrepresented children about water safety, scuba diving and environmental stewardship for free, said Fisher, who noted the USA Swimming Foundation statistic that nearly 64% of African American children have little or no ability to swim.
In doing so, the programs and the therapeutic benefits of water give students tools to deal with the traumas and other obstacles they have faced.
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How many people do you serve?
The non-profit organization has so far served about 150 students through its programs and courses. It is aimed at children from 10 years old.
What is your organization’s #1 need?
Sea Scope needs more staff who understand environmental stewardship and who work with children from complex backgrounds as well as board members. He is also looking for sponsors or donors to send students to Florida over the summer to continue their scuba training and learn about coral restoration.
How can people get involved?
Sea Scope works with students from its partner organizations, who so far in 2023 will be WISP Faces and the Wheeler-Dowe Boys and Girls Club. Other partnerships are in preparation.
Those who are not affiliated with the partners can join the New Depth Dive Association Indiana Chapter. And anyone can volunteer to help Sea Scope accomplish its mission. The nonprofit is also available to be hired to host programs, like this one “Sports of all kinds” of the past summer in collaboration with Indy Parks and Rec and others.
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Contact IndyStar reporter Domenica Bongiovanni at 317-444-7339 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @domenicareports.