September 26, 2018

Winner-winner, seafood dinner! Hi, I'm Mica and I'm one of the lucky TIDES 2 scholarship recipients! I've dreamed of becoming a marine biologist since I was nine years old. Last fall, at the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I was looking for a marine science and scuba program to apply to for the next summer. Season 1, A Rising TideI was just beginning to lose hope of finding something extraordinary and affordable when a friend mentioned the scholarship contest from Ocean First for A Rising Tide. I went to an informational meeting the next night and knew that this was the opportunity I was looking for; the program included SCUBA certification, marine science, travel, and the best news of all was that Ocean First is practically right in my backyard! I mean, how many marine science programs are in Colorado, much less Boulder, right at the base of the famous Flatirons? Long story short, I submitted my application right away, then waited in utter agony for the selection process to be completed. After what seemed like years, I finally received the news that I'd won a partial scholarship and I was about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime.

The seven other local high school scholarship recipients and I began our scuba training and marine science coursework in January. We spent the next five months in preparation for our big trip to the coral reef off the coast of Key Largo in the Florida Keys. As it was all of our first times aboard a dive boat out on the open ocean, several of us had some run-ins with seasickness on the first day. Turns out, we were able to get a better view of the fish anyway; they love the up-chucked remains of breakfast! Once everyone was up and running again with a little Dramamine in our systems, we were able to experience the full beauty of the underwater world. Taking it all in.We were completely blown away by the peaceful ecosystems that existed just 25 feet below the rocking boat. Alas, our last day came much too fast; I was sad to see the adventure end. On the way to the airport for our trip home, we got a bit of a surprise. (If you know Graham, you know he's full of surprises.) We were asked if we'd be interested in continuing our education in round TWO of “A Rising Tide” (TIDES 2). Um...yes!?! Were we ever!

Fast forward to about a month ago: me continually checking my email, looking for something, ANYTHING from my TIDES instructors, particularly an acceptance letter into TIDES 2. Then, I saw it; an email from Cathy. The first word I read was a big, bold CONGRATULATIONS. I screamed, danced, then fell to the floor in complete disbelief and elation. I can't really remember what I did the rest of that morning, but I'm pretty sure I was just in the same happy daze I've been in ever since.

I can hardly control my growing excitement to get started again; I have a feeling that this year is going to be even more fantastic than the last. For one thing, it sounds like I will get to go on more dive trips that may include some night diving. I'll also have the opportunity to deepen my marine science knowledge, which is something I've been excited about for many years now. A new aspect to the program this year is community service. I'm partnering with a local non-profit to help influence people in the area to keep trash out of the ocean. Though Colorado may seem a long way from the seas, a large amount of waste is swept down our creeks and rivers to the open ocean where it is left for animals to eat.

I will be forever grateful to Ocean First for the opportunity to pursue my dreams and hope that the TIDES program is just the beginning of deepening my understanding and appreciation for our oceans. I look forward to many more aquatic adventures to come. Thank you Ocean First!

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