This is the third in a series of posts about this year’s Ocean Hero finalists.
Laura Medrano is a mental health professional who helps inner-city adolescents in Boston through Dive Kulture, the first program in the nation to offer scuba certification in conjunction with environmental summer jobs.
The youths she helps are at risk of violence, abuse and neglect and many already have a criminal record, Laura told me. Through Dive Kulture, she uses scuba diving as a therapeutic mental health treatment. The students learn how to breathe more slowly through scuba, which helps them calm down and think more clearly in difficult situations.
Plus, for many of Laura's students, it’s their first time in the ocean -- she helps them connect to the marine environment in their backyard. Some of them, she says, didn't know the ocean was salty before joining Dive Kulture.
At the end of the two-month training, Laura helps place her students in summer jobs, often in environmental organizations. Summer is the most difficult time for them, she says, because they are unsupervised and more likely to get in trouble. At Save the Harbor, Save the Bay, one Boston organization that has employed many of her students, they work with marine educators and teach younger kids about the harbor.
The youths also take trips to the aquarium and go on boat cruises around the harbor in Boston, and Laura collaborates with a local university to teach the students about marine life and habitats.
If you haven’t yet, read about the rest of the finalists and cast your vote today!