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24 earn Youth Environment Ambassador certification

  • A group of 24 Youth Environmental Ambassadors (YEA), recently received the YEA certification. The YEA program is sponsored and operated by environmental advocacy organization Save The Bays. PHOTOS: SAVE THE BAYS

  • Participants during the graduation drumming session.

Published: May 29, 2017

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Zhyir Miranda, 12, knew even as a youngster that littering was wrong. But it wasn’t until she signed up for Youth Environmental Ambassadors (YEA) and saw the damage it could do to marine life that she fully understood littering isn’t just ugly, but dangerous.

“Littering does not just look bad; littering can kill the turtles in the sea. It can kill the animals that live in the mangroves and depend on mangroves for their survival, especially when they are young,” said the pre-teen, who rattled off characteristics of red, black and white mangroves as if she were reciting words to a favorite song.

Zhyir, a seventh grade Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Academy student, was one of 24 young people recently pinned for their passion and rewarded for their enthusiasm, who received her YEA certification. The YEA program is sponsored and operated by environmental advocacy organization Save The Bays.

For four months, junior school students like Zhyir spent every second Saturday trekking through bushes, cleaning beaches, learning about wetlands and studying the impact of plastic on the oxygen supply of salt or fresh water marine life. All activities, both in the classroom and at the YMCA in Freeport and in the field, were geared toward making participants future leaders in environmental stewardship.

“This was the fourth year Save The Bays has offered Youth Environmental Ambassadors to youth in Grand Bahama,” said Rashema Ingraham, who oversees the program that normally draws twice as many applicants as it can accommodate.

More than 200 have graduated from the YEA program. The last session, Ingraham said, differed from former versions of the program.

“In the past, we spent a lot of time visiting sites, learning about how industrial waste is managed, or power generated, or what it takes to produce solar energy. But this time we focused on research, which we shared with organizations abroad,” said Ingraham.

“Participants gathered data about shoreline erosion, indigenous vegetation and wetlands. Some of the work involved fine details. There were sections of beach that, when we did a beach cleanup, we separated the trash and garbage to identify how much plastic or glass or metal or other debris we found. The most discouraging part was that the majority of the debris we collected had not floated ashore from passing ships. Based on bottles and labels of products, most of the litter we found was the result of local activity, reflecting environmental neglect and disrespect,” she said.

The litter disappoints Zhyir, but now she is more likely to speak up when she sees someone toss something from a car window, even if the offender is much older or bigger.

“It is bad for the ocean and it kills things in the sea. It kills turtles. When I joined Save The Bays (YEA), I learned a lot more about our environment, and I learned that there are 80 species of mangroves. I learned so much, and now I want to stand up for the environment. Did you know that viviparous, they’re like plants that give birth to live plants, grow up in salt water and breathe oxygen from above the water? I found that cool.”

Finishing in the top three of the class, Zhyir said the course, which included leadership and teamwork played out through team drumming exercises, helped reaffirm her passion to care for pets as a veterinarian.

As graduates received their pins and began their roles as youth ambassadors, the schools they came from were also rewarded. Save The Bays provided financial support for all six schools whose students participated in the YEA program. Participating schools were Sister Mary Patricia Russell Junior High School, Eight Mile Rock High School, Sunland Baptist Academy, Bishop Michael Eldon School, Jack Hayward Junior High School and Mary Star of the Sea.

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