by Lynda F. Rysavy | Thursday, Jun 24, 2021
Students in a classroom

FAU Harbor Branch received a $100,000 award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create the “Keep the Sea Free of Debris” Junior Ambassador Program. The program aims to teach children in underserved communities about the effects of litter and marine debris and empower them to be advocates for the ocean and inspire environmental stewardship.

“The effects of litter are often out of sight and out of mind,” said Gabby Barbarite, Ph.D., director of outreach and engagement at FAU Harbor Branch.  “Through this project, our goal is to educate the next generation of marine scientists and environmental stewards so that they can make a positive impact on our community and the amazing ecosystems that surround it.”

 FAU Harbor Branch is partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County and the St. Lucie County Solid Waste Division to provide this transformative summer experience for middle and high school children. The program will educate and directly engage approximately 230 children from disadvantaged communities in St. Lucie County.

“Our partnership with FAU Harbor Branch has impacted thousands of children throughout St. Lucie County and helped connect families to their community,” said Thomas John, director of community outreach of the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County. “We are so excited to expand our partnership to serve teens in St. Lucie County in addition to our elementary-aged students. While we strive to give teens employment opportunities and support them academically, we first strive to make our members good citizens. Being a good citizen starts with caring for your community, and this program will do exactly that. Providing conservation education to teens in our community and empowering those teens to serve others is priority No. 1.”

This intensive experience will include educational lessons, hands-on activities, experiments, beach clean-ups, citizen science projects, and environmental advocacy.

“St. Lucie County’s recycling program is in direct alignment with FAU Harbor Branch’s ocean debris management mindset, and we are so excited to be included in such an impactful program,” added Rebecca Olson, assistant director of Public Utilities & Solid Waste at the St. Lucie County Solid Waste Division. “We’re looking forward to helping inspire the children of our community to keep Earth’s greatest source of life, the seas, healthy and clean.”

 Two pilot programs will be held this summer, with a full rollout of the program set for summer 2022.