Youth Odyssey is the beneficiary of four amazing scholarships for four deserving youth this summer. Margo Peyton, an inductee to the Women Divers Hall of Fame and founder and president of Kids Sea Camp has gifted Youth Odyssey with four full PADI Open Water Diver certifications, two to be completed here in Corpus Christi and two to be completed on the island of Bonaire.
Board Member James Gourley, a PADI certified instructor himself, teaches the Delta Summer Camp introduction to SCUBA lessons and reached out to Peyton for the scholarships. He will be facilitating the awarding of the scholarships as well as donating travel costs for the Bonaire scholarship. Gourley set up an interview with Peyton and Youth Odyssey to talk about her love of the underwater world and her work with youth.
Youth Odyssey: I’d like to start off by congratulating you on your induction to the Women Divers Hall of Fame and to give our readers a little bit of background information on what you do. It’s obvious to see you have a real passion for diving, specifically family diving. Where did that interest develop?
Peyton: Well I’ve always been a very family oriented person. I’m Portuguese and I grew up in a very close knit family in Cape Cod, MA. The ocean has been a part of my life, all my life, and my father is a diver so I got interested in diving and marine conservation at a very young age. I’ve always had a love of the ocean, and been very passionate about it. Back in the 90s I moved to the Cayman Islands where my passion grew and I logged over 2000 dives.
At this point I also became a mother and, becoming a mother, as James (Gourley) knows as a father looking to share his love of diving with his own children, I wanted to share my love of diving with my children. I looked all over, but I couldn’t find anything that allowed children to enjoy the sea with their families, mostly because of the legal liabilities of putting kids in the water. I knocked on a lot of doors to get the organization started, and it was hard. The recipe seemed to be family owned and family friendly.The resorts that were owned by a mom and a dad who had kids, understood what we were trying to do.
I originally called my organization “Guilt Free” diving because the kids were having as much fun as the adults, whereas prior to that you felt very guilty diving while your kids were locked in some room coloring. We had our very first Kids Sea Camp in 2001 with 15 kids in one week, then it quickly grew to two weeks and 50 kids, then three weeks and a 100 kids then four weeks and 500 kids. We expanded to Bonaire and the Cayman Islands, where we’ve been for 12 years as of this year.
Since then, the dive industry as a whole has started certifying kids at the age of ten, they realized how much the future of the dive industry and the oceans really depended on getting children involved in the sea.
Youth Odyssey: So from a diving perspective getting young blood into diving is important, but how does getting kids into the ocean so young help in youth development?
Oh it’s huge, it’s all about education. Youth are learning about a whole new world they can explore. Youth learn about their environmental impact and what they can do to protect and preserve. It builds character and knowledge.
The reason the scholarships were created is because there are children out there who have a passion for the ocean, who want to become a part of something they’ve dreamt about but they don’t have the means to do so. We put their dream within reach and give them an opportunity to fulfill a passion they have. It’s not for any kid or every kid, it’s really about that child that has that passion and desire and wants to be a part of the ocean and underwater world. We give a child of that caliber an experience of a lifetime and an opportunity. Once they become an open water diver the whole idea is that they are an advocate and a voice and hopefully that will drive a passion that will bring about other things for them in their life as they grow. We have scholarship recipients who are now dive masters, environmentalists, in school for marine sciences, working with corals, studying global warming effects, and who have launched whole careers based off their interest and this scholarship.
Youth Odyssey: Lastly, as a member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame, is there anything you would like to share with girls in tough situations to help them overcome their circumstances?
Yeah I would tell them to reach out to the Women Diver Hall of Fame. We have a huge amount of scholarships that are not well known. I accept every scholarship I receive for Kids Sea Camp each year. Not enough ladies know about it, and there are scholarships for girls with a variety of interests. The women in the Hall are happy to be mentors and provide opportunities. Write to one or two members of the Hall and ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. James sent emails for six years and finally I had time to sit down and read and there were James’ letters. I realized I had to do something about this. Keep knocking on doors. With Kids Sea camp no one wanted to embrace the idea of kids at a resort, they’re loud and noisy, and they pee in the pool. The resorts said are you crazy? So I had to take them to a different level and teach them about planting seeds today to cultivate tomorrow. So I encourage youth to ask for help and don’t lose hope.
For more information, or to apply for a scholarship through the Women Divers Hall of Fame, click here.