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.
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.
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.
“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”.
Nick Keller, Founder of Beyond Sport concluded the 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”.
To learn more about Ocean Academy’s innovative high-school programs call the school office at 226-0321 or the Projects Director at 626-0408. A contact-us email can also be sent via the school website www.cayecaulkerschool.com.