2019 Training Grant Essays


2019 Training Grant Essays – Gillmen

Please find the essays for both our Open Water and Advanced Training Grants. At the very end of the page is a button which will direct you to the voting. Please select your top choice by Tuesday, January 14th.

Essay 1: Open Water

Having never actually done a dive, I nonetheless feel deeply invested in SCUBA and the process of learning and growing through the practice. I’ve had the opportunity to see SCUBA diving in an intimate way – my boyfriend of two years has recently completed his Dive Master training, and I’ve accompanied him to many New England Dive events.

Because of him, I see SCUBA as this amazing avenue to a world so far removed from my everyday life. In my professional life, I work in a scientific research lab. I’m very used to the synthetic world of beakers and test tubes, but I was afforded the opportunity to work with a unique species of aquatic salamander – the axolotl. Working with these amphibians has led to a greater curiosity about the wildlife inhabiting the lakes, oceans, and rivers that surround me in both Connecticut as well as the world. Unfortunately, the axolotl is almost completely extinct in the wild. This impressed upon me the importance of going and seeing what’s out there while it’s still there. With climates changing, and the oceans experiencing increased levels of carbon and pollution, I know that time is ticking. I have a genuine love for all animals and the environment; being exposed to SCUBA has deeply impressed on me the fact that I need to seize the day and go see as much as I can while I can. A species may not be here five years from now, so what am I waiting for? Diving would present me with the chance to change the way I see the world as well as allow me to more greatly appreciate all the species we share the planet with. I have a deep love of learning new things and would be so grateful for the chance to learn to dive and grow as a person in the process. 

My boyfriend is the biggest motivating factor in wanting to learn how to dive. In the time I’ve known him, I’ve been able to see him both study for and complete his Advanced OW, Rescue Diver, and Divemaster courses. There is something indescribable about the pride I feel in seeing how hard he works, and how impactful his accomplishments have been in his life. SCUBA has been such a big portion of his life that I want to be able to share in it with him and make it a part of mine. Something that is so important to him has naturally become something that I have a vested interest in and care deeply for. Being able to dive will inevitably bring us closer together as we explore new places and have new adventures together underwater.

I’ve always considered myself someone who believes in pushing themselves to learn new things, and this is something that I very much want to learn. This would be something so far from the ‘norm’ for myself, but I’m ready to take the plunge both literally and figuratively. I want to explore New England at new depths, and I want to be afforded the opportunity to grow closer with someone I love. Being granted this scholarship would be a way for me to grow personally in most areas of my life, and I’m ready to take on the exciting challenge of diving.With the assistance of the SCUBA scholarship being offered, I can take the first steps towards becoming certified. This scholarship would help to alleviate some of the financial stress I feel, as I am also still in school. Trying to afford both collegiate classes and SCUBA classes at once would create too much of a financial burden, but this scholarship would help to make becoming certified a reality.


Essay 2: Open Water

There are quite a few reasons as to why I would love to get scuba certified. Some of my oldest and best memories from when I was young was getting to snorkel at the coral reefs in the Red Sea. My parents were master divers who met in Saudi Arabia, so at a young age I was introduced to the beauty that lies beneath the sea. Another reason why I want to get certified is that some of the most important people in my life are scuba divers, and I want to be able to share that experience with them. The last big reason why I want to get certified is the world of adventures that await under the sea. Scuba diving would be a way for me to get to explore and discover a whole new world and to meet more awesome people.

I was born and raised on the west coast of Saudi Arabia in a town called Yanbu, right next to one of the best dive locations in the world, the Red Sea. While I was too young to ever get to go diving while I was there, I was lucky enough to be able to go swimming and snorkeling at reefs that were right off the coast. Almost 16 years later I can still remember looking down at all the colorful fish and stunning coral. I know that the diving in Connecticut waters is a little different, but my hope is that diving will allow me to find the hidden beauty that is in all waters around the world.

A large part of the reason why I am alive is due to diving. It’s how my parents met while in Saudi, and was something that they often did together while living there. I’ve grown up hearing their stories of the amazing times they had while diving, but I never felt like it was something that I would be able to do, especially now living in CT.  After meeting my girlfriend, who happened to be a new diver and a member of SECONN, I was now surrounded by people who enjoyed diving. After some time and attending many fun and interesting meetings and events with her and SECONN, I have learned how much the waters around these parts have to offer and how fun it can be to dive anywhere.

Lastly, I want to learn to dive so that I have another tool in my bag for being able to explore the world around me. I love to travel, and I feel like going underwater is like visiting another world, one that not everyone has or is able to visit. It also just seems like so much fun, and I’m sure that there is a lot of good times to be had doing it. So, for this reason, along with the fact that my family has strong ties to diving, I’ve have had a small taste of what lies down there, and the great scuba community that is in this area are reasons as to why I would love to get certified. My only regret is waiting so long to decide to do so.


Essay 3: Open Water

I am originally from Boston, MA, and I now live in Rhode Island and study at a university in New York. My current academic interest as a Junior majoring in Biology at Lander College for Women, include biology, health sciences, ecology, environmental studies, and marine conservation. I am a proactive student who enjoys working hard and achieving both intellectual and personal growth.

As a child, growing up in New England, I had the incredible opportunity to live near the coast. I come from a family of 8, and because I have such a large family we were never able to go to summer camp or take family vacations. Yet, I remember having the best summers as a child. I swam, sailed, kayaked, and windsurfed. All of these opportunities were made possible through the incredible work done by Community Boating in Boston. CBI is a non-profit sailing club based on the Charles River in Boston. I was able to go sailing every summer for $1. It was at CBI where I was able to be involved in competition, make life-long friends, and receive addition education in STEM and environmental conservation awareness.

I later went on to volunteer at CBI as a junior-sailing instructor and give to others the way CBI gave to me. I further went on to train and work as a lifeguard at the JCC in Rhode Island, where I have taught water safety skills to children and adults for the last 5 years. I recently received my Lifeguard Instructor certification and I am now able to give back and educate future lifeguards in water safety and rescue skills.

I want to become PADI Open Water Dive Certified in order to further my interests in marine conservation and add to my collection of aquatic skills. All my life, I have been privileged enough to be able to participate in aquatics through the generosity of others. My goal is to be able to use all the skills I have been able accumulated and use them to give back to my community. My goal is to open an aquatic training facility, that promotes learning and safety. I intend to be able to provide the same low-cost services that were available to me as a child, to those cannot afford to pay for them. I want to offer need-based scholarships for swimming lessons, low-cost dive certification for teens, lifeguard and aquatic safety classes to the community, and conservation volunteer travel opportunities. I am confident that this grant will bring me one step closer to my goal. Thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration.

Advanced Cert Essays

Essay 4: Advanced

I am a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut, with a degree in Natural Resources and a concentration in Climate and Water Resources, supported by a minor in Geoscience. I am pursuing a career that will affect positive change for the responsible use of water and the conservation of other natural resources and allow me to apply my field and lab skills.

In my field, the ability to scuba dive is an incredible asset. While studying lakes, diving allows the ability to access the deep water to discover, map, and sometimes remove invasive species. In my employment at Seasonal Research Assistant at Northeast Aquatic Research, my primary responsibilities were to conduct in-the-field measurements of lake water quality parameters such as DO, ORP, conductivity, and pH. My other primary role was to be part of the team that survey and map the aquatic plants of the lakes. This includes identifying species and genus of native, endangered and invasive plants, as well as estimating percent cover and growth. These skills have provided me the opportunity to apply my academic knowledge to the outside world. As I continue to pursue a career in the Natural Resources field, and consider grad school I am struck by how important diving is in scientific research and understanding, and how different it is compared to recreational diving. It is my hope that I can pursue understanding, and protecting the underwater world through my work.

As a new graduate I am presently working on paying off my student loans, while transitioning between seasonal positions. Despite needing a degree for the positions in my field, most positions are temporary and pay entry level wages until you have many years of experience. As such I am not in a position financially to pursue an advanced SCUBA certification without assistance, and would greatly benefit from this scholarship. It would allow me to pursue SCUBA more avidly-both for recreation and career wise.


Essay 5: Advanced

I am currently a sophomore at the University of Connecticut. I saw your advanced Scuba Diving scholarship on the SECONN website and I am extremely interested in this opportunity. Ever since I was a child I have always been interested in the ocean and all of the life within it. Since I could walk and talk, I have felt a deep connection with and for the ocean and everything that lies beneath it. I am currently majoring in Environmental Studies at UCONN with a focus on Pre-Law and the marine ecosystem. My dream job is to become an environmental lawyer and work with fisheries, the United States government, international NGOs and other governments to protect, create and enforce marine policies.  My goal is to help preserve all ocean sea life while maintaining the livelihood of fishermen by keeping their fishing stock stable. I love diving, it’s a beautiful space-like world underneath the water and I want to protect every square inch of it. Diving is not only a pleasure but with this opportunity it will help me understand what the oceans truly look like, from the pollution to the beauty. I want to increase my scuba diving skills so that not only can I enjoy more of the aquatic environment but I can use diving for my career as well. If I want to protect the environment, I have to understand every aspect of what makes it function. I want to go diving with experienced researchers and hear what they have to say about the local fish populations or the amount of plastic in a certain area. I want to be hands on to personally see what’s happening to the oceans biomes.   Then I can truly understand what needs to be done to repair the damage that humanity has done. The goal is to repair the ecosystems and still have enough of the natural resources for fishermen and other people whose lives depend on the oceans. I want to increase my knowledge not only for myself but for the world. I want to understand the totality of the ocean and all life within it in order to make a well-informed decision on policies and laws that benefit both the ocean and the land above it. I care deeply about the ocean and I know if I were to receive this scholarship, I would not only enjoy the thrill of diving but would work to help save the environment that we divers cherish. I was certified in Open water Diving on April 23rd 2017 in Islamorada Florida where I did 4 open water dives in 2 days. I have since dived in Cancun Mexico another 4 times this spring of 2018. I love diving and am ready to achieve the next level and beyond.


Essay 6: Advanced

I was born with saltwater I was born with saltwater coursing through my veins. As a child growing up on Cape Cod the beaches and ocean were my playground, every waking moment I was begging my parents to take me to the beach. However, it wasn’t the waves or the beautiful New England summers that drew me to the beach, it was the opportunity to explore and interact with the plants and animals that also called the cape cod beaches home. Each summer I incessantly begged my grandmother to take me to visit the National Marine Life Center (NMLC), a facility dedicated to preserve and protect the animals of Buzzards Bay and to educate the public in the care of sick marine animals. It was through my visits to this facility that my love for marine animals and their protection and care would truly begin to emerge.  

Every year I returned to update myself on the new patients, learning about the release stories as I counted down the years till I could volunteer. Everything changed for NMLC in late 2007, when the roof to the hospital collapsed, sending the sea turtle and seal rehabilitation operations to a halt. While awaiting the rebuilding of the hospital, at the age of fifteen I began to volunteer. Initially, I started assisting with the Massachusetts headstart program for endangered Northern Red-Bellied Cooters.

Over the next several years I volunteered off and on at NMLC, taking time away to work to help support my pursuit of my undergraduate education, but I always returned to NMLC. In college I advanced to volunteering in the newly built hospital. Each animal care shift began with preparing diets and administering vitamins to each seal and sea turtle patient. Seeing the miraculous recovery of sick patients, dedication of the animal care team and the smiles of children learning about aquatic wildlife has been what has motivated me to pursue a career in aquatic veterinary medicine.

In the summer of 2012, I completed by PADI Open Water SCUBA Diver Certification in an accelerated program. This opportunity truly opened up my eyes to the underwater world beyond the shoreline. SCUBA has provided me the opportunity to share a special bond with my father on our weekend trips together out on the ocean floor together. I’ve always wanted to advance my training in SCUBA, but as a veterinary student finances are tight. Exploring the miraculous underwater world has always been a passion of mine as I continue to pursue opportunities to help the creatures that call it home.

As I look towards the future, I have the mindset of returning to Cape Cod in pursuit of a career assisting with stranding/emergency calls and follow through with the rehabilitation of local marine animals. In the years that I will spend studying veterinary medicine at Western University of Health Sciences I plan to pursue opportunities to broaden my knowledge in aquatic veterinary medicine. Overall, I am confident that the passion and aspirations that I have to help both wild and domesticated animals will never subside; therefore, pursuing a career that follows my passions so closely will continue to provide the growth and fulfillment that I am constantly seeking. 


Essay 7: Advanced

“Every time you dive, you hope you’ll see something new … Sometimes the ocean gives you a gift.” – James Cameron.

Fish fleet across seemingly foreign, intergalactic-like seascapes through the oxidized iron green tinted New England water. This otherworldly perspective, this humbling and vast, darkness is a reminder of just how small us scuba divers, us humans truly are. It is this sobering pressure and immensity that reiterates how the ocean demands our gratitude for providing us not only life itself but this perspective and in turn this experience. Perspective is the root of all experience, and my minimal experience as a scuba diver has granted me the greatest, and most unexpected gift of all, the gift of friendship, of community, and of love.

Senioritis  was kicking in, black $1 McDonalds coffee in hand, I had my knee-high combat boots propped up on the top of my woodshop teacher’s desk when he asked me, pilot, a human-powered submersible submarine.  I said yes, then he and my English teacher financed my basic scuba diving certification. Their dedicated, thoughtful, and compassionate approach to go above and beyond the call of duty of teaching not only inspired me to pursue a degree in education myself, but it laid the foundation that paved the direction for the rest of my life, and what a gift that was.

The direction of my life since then has taken me all over the world. From Caribbean coral speckled shipwrecks to a tiny hunk of rock in the middle Thailand’s gulf, to the beachside bars of Stonington for a cold beer after a colder Dubois dive. Surrounded by the warm smiles of dive buddies from all different walks of life, we share the commonality of community through scuba diving and the ocean’s greatest gifts, this being one of them and one of my favorites at that. It has guided me into the arms of my greatest friends, creating lifelong bonds with people that I literally trust with my entire life, and vice versa. Whether it is the need for the clinks of drinks, a shoulder to cry on, a quick post dive booger check or an extra pair of 5 mm gloves packed only to be borrowed and shared, they’ve got your back, and that’s love.

I fell in love somewhere between my first underwater kiss in Grand Cayman and Koh Tao to the Ocean Frontiers scuba instructor who made me nachos after a day of 100+ ft visibility dives in 72-degree water. He brought his own beer, we liked the same music, and that was it. Since then, we have swum in schools of barracuda together, gone diving in underwater cave dens named after the Devil, and rubbed baby manatee bellies while snorkeling. He makes fun of my Zoop computer and my lack of buoyancy, but I make fun of the fact that he is a warm water wuss. We are now engaged to be married, my lifelong dive buddy.

The truth is, all of my dive buddies are lifelong dive buddies. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what this essay is about; the hunger for travel, for experience, for surfacing as the sun starts setting over the horizon, for salty wetsuit hugs, and the “did you see thats!?” This is my life now, and I would not be the person I am today if my woodshop teacher never asked me to dive and if my English teacher never found the funding for my certification. I wouldn’t be a submarine pilot, an English teacher, a scuba sister to some very lovely ladies, or even a future wife. I wouldn’t be a diver. Which is why I hope SECONN considers me for an advanced scuba certification scholarship, to continue growing, learning, diving, and loving, to continue being a part of this community that has aided in facilitating all of those things for me. These things and you guys are the greatest and most unexpected ocean gift of them all.  


Essay 8: Advanced

I am applying for the Advanced Certification scholarship because it will help me to pursue my future Masters degree and career path in marine science and education. I was lucky enough to complete my Open Water Certification during the summer of 2017, prior to my semester studying abroad in the Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. There, I was able to dive several times a month, and was exposed to some of the most incredible wildlife I had ever imagined seeing. I dove with Scalloped Hammerhead and Galápagos sharks, as well as Eagle Rays and Green Sea Turtles. Seeing these animals up close and experiencing the wonders of that incredible ecosytem fueled my passion to protect our oceans and continue my studies of Marine Biology. If you had asked me a year prior to that experience if I would have seen myself in that environment, I would have said “no”. Financially, it was very tough for me to afford my certification, but thanks to the help of a few of my family members and the funds I had saved from my summer teaching job, I was just able to cover it. Once I settled in in the Galápagos, many of my classmates went on to complete further certifications at local dive shops. I, of course, wished I could have joined them, but I was also extremely grateful that I had even made it there to begin with and was able to enjoy what my open water certification enabled me to experience. At that point, I was unsure of what exactly I wanted to do professionally, but that all changed after my internship this past summer. With the stipend I was awarded through my school’s Career Service program, I was able to fill a position in the Educational Programs department at the Cape Eleuthera Institute on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas for three months. There, I assisted in executing the logistics needed to organize and deliver experiential learning programs for primary, secondary, and high school groups as well as for professional researchers. For most of the programs, we spent a lot of our time in the water, and I even got to dive with some groups. I could clearly see how large of an impact this experience had on our students, as they were able to directly see the organisms and ecosystems that we had taught them about in the classroom with their own eyes. This experience is what inspired me to go on and pursue further education in marine science and inspire future generations to do the same, especially in the face of the current threats to our planet and marine environments. I was lucky enough to even assist with a coral diving week, where another educator and myself introduced the young divers to the issues plaguing coral ecosystems and how we can potentially help increase the health and survival of their populations by working on projects such as the constructions of coral nurseries. At the institute, I was given another opportunity to further my certifications, but I was unable to afford it, since the stipend I was awarded only covered my room, board, and transportation to and from the island. Most recently, I was presented with a possible opportunity to join one of my professors on a coral research dive this summer in Panama, and it would be required that I have more advanced certification in able to assist in this research. I am certain that I want to pursue a career in marine science and education, and believe I have the skills and experience needed to be a successful advanced diver. Thank you for taking the time to review and consider my application.