They trek through woods and meander through gardens with cameras and notepads in hand. They explore the undersea world and get up close with snakes and birds. They are participants in The Bahamas Youth Environmental Ambassadors (YEA) program. Sponsored by Save The Bays, the program now in its fifth year has trained more than 200 students in Grand Bahama, who are learning today to appreciate the precious and often fragile resources of The Bahamas that they pledge to respect tomorrow.
This year, 33 students are participating in the program that consistently draws more applicants than it has space to accommodate. Participants experience the variety of rich Bahamian ecosystems through first-hand experiences complete with lectures and field trips.
On two Saturdays of each month, facilitators, all of whom have secured leadership training through the Center for Creative Leadership, lead both theory and practical components allowing YEAs the opportunity to learn about these systems then explore them, conducting observatory exercises, making assessments or gathering data on human impact. The program also attracts guest lecturers, and so far the students have learned about sharks and rays in The Bahamas with lectures led by Dr. Tristan Guttridge and Michael Scholl of Save Our Seas Foundation.
For the year, expeditions included treks through Grand Bahama’s most touted green space, Gardens of The Groves; a glass-bottom sailing excursion with shark and coral reefs identification; and personal interactions with a Bahamian boa constrictor. The expeditions complemented three academic sessions that focused on the connectivity of life between animals, trees and humans; a study of sharks and rays in The Bahamas; and the pine forest ecosystem.
“When I reflect on the past five years, I could not be more satisfied with the reception of the YEA program, the enthusiasm displayed by our ambassadors and the overall support,” said Rashema Ingraham, YEA coordinator. “We are always so impressed by the growth of our students at the end of each module. By then, many of them find their voices and become advocates for the environment.”
Ingraham said the entry process is competitive.
“Each fall students are recommended by their teachers and guidance counselors. Students are then selected based on submission of two essays in which they demonstrate their understanding of the essence of Save The Bays and their knowledge of climate change and its effect on coastal communities of which The Bahamas is.”
This year’s program ends with a pinning ceremony in mid-May.
The YEA program is part of Save The Bays’ education mandate.