June 12, 2018

A Rising Tide ScholarsWe didn’t know a lot about any of the kids selected to be our A Rising Tide scholars. We had a selection process based on a rubric of several elements, but we really had no idea of how they would do in the Tides program or in the documentary series. We hoped for the best in that they would benefit from the program and be entertaining to watch on the show.

Pleasant surprises came quickly. In our first meeting with Fatima, we learned that she did not yet know how to swim. A prerequisite of knowing how to swim was assumed by us, but not spelled out. It would make for a great side-story in the show and would showcase just how determined this student was to make this scholarship work.

As training began, the students took to it with gusto. A great teacher makes it all the easier, but it’s still a lot of material to go through; all of these kids already have busy schedules of school, sports, extracurricular activities, and everything else involved in a teenager’s life.

Perhaps the most difficult part for them was having a camera in their face while doing things like learning how to flood a scuba mask with water or setting up the scuba gear properly. It may have been most difficult on some weekend mornings that seemed too early. Nobody wants a camera in their face recording their tired, disheveled image for a YouTube show available to millions and millions of viewers. Regardless of all this, they quickly adapted to the production.

Now, 6 months later and just before going to the final trip to Key Largo, Florida, the students are naturals in front of the camera and fully competent “referral” divers ready for their open water certification. Excitement and anticipation is at an all-time high.

All 8 scholars

We have 6 episodes left, but after that, what’s next? These kids came into this with varied expectations. Some were clearly determined to have a career in marine sciences and some just knew they were drawn to the ocean, but uncertain of what would lay beyond that. Now, they all have been exposed to career paths that focus on ocean conservation and the variety of ways to help marine life and the Earth in general. It’s too early to say if there is a clear plan for any of them, but for all of them, plans are developing more than they were 6 months ago.

By the end of this month, when we’ve all settled back from the trip to Florida and the last few episodes release on YouTube, I know that all eight of our A Rising Tide scholars will be forever changed. They will have become not just scuba divers, but stewards of the ocean, with knowledge that shapes their futures and inspires many others around them.

To follow the behind-the-scenes production, go to our Instagram account: @arisingtideshow. You can also keep up to date at Facebook.com/arisingtideshow.

~by Matt Abraxas

Matt Abraxas is a filmmaker and ocean enthusiast. He is also the creative director at New Focus Films, a commercial video production company.

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