She’s been recognized many times for her work, including as a guest speaker at Dreamforce and at Ocean Heroes panel during the Global Climate Action Summit. She’s one of the first class of Ocean Heroes recognized by the Aquarium, and earned a Girl Scout Gold Award for her work to raise awareness about the problem of single-use plastic – notably plastic straws.
Now 17 and a senior at San Benito High School, she’s the 2018 recipient of the Paul Walker Youth Award, presented to young people who share the late actor’s love of the ocean and his commitment to take an active role in safeguarding ocean health. Through the Paul Walker Foundation created by Paul’s daughter Meadow, Shelby will receive a college scholarship to support her studies, so she can contribute in new ways to ocean and conservation initiatives.
Sometimes, a summer job is just a summer job. And sometimes, it changes your life. Monterey Bay Aquarium strives to have a life-changing impact on the young people who take part in our teen programs—part of our commitment to shape new generations of ocean conservation leaders. It’s the vision that drives creation of our new Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership, where we’ll be able to double the participation in these and other programs.
Even before the Center opens in 2019, we’re having this kind of impact on young women and men. And they are already making a difference in the world: as conservation leaders, educators and ocean advocates. Here are some of their stories.
Gaining skills for future success
Consider Roberto Flores. He was born and raised in Watsonville, in a neighborhood rife with gang violence.
“There were people killed on my street,” says Roberto, who’s now 25. In 2006, when he was a freshman in high school, he had the opportunity to become a Volunteer Guide at the Aquarium, helping guests get the most out of their visits and promoting an understanding of ocean conservation. From there, he became a Teen Conservation Leader, and a participant in Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH), an Aquarium initiative with Pajaro Valley high schools.
As he moved from position to position, somehow, the Aquarium and its programs were always there, providing a much-needed lifeline—and offering a little bit of a tailwind to sustain the momentum he’d established by dint of his own drive and enthusiasm.
If we take a cue from kids like these, the ocean’s future looks bright.
Plastic pollution threatens the health of marine wildlife like fish, turtles and seabirds, which often become entangled in plastic trash or eat it by mistake. And the problem is growing quickly: Since people started making plastic in the 1950s, only 9 percent has been recycled, and another 12 percent has been incinerated. The rest, over 4 billion metric tons, has ended up in landfills or in the natural environment—including the ocean.
On October 3, the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea banned its restaurants and food vendors from providing plastic straws and utensils. The idea for the ban stemmed from a group of Carmel River School students, encouraged by fifth grade teacher Niccole Tiffany, who were concerned about plastic pollution in the ocean. The kids took action, attending a City Council meeting and requesting a law banning single-use plastics in the city’s restaurants. One of the students who spoke during the public comment period was Shayla Dutta, age 10.