Select New Mexico kids get once in a lifetime opportunity

SAN DIEGO (KRQE) – Twenty-six children from the Boys and Girls Club in New Mexico had a spring break they will never forget. Three days and two nights in San Diego, California at Sea World was just the tip of the iceberg. The life lessons and experiences they walked away with will last longer than a fun filled week in March.

It was a quiet 5 a.m. start for the students from the Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Pojoaque Boys and Girls Clubs last Tuesday, but just hours later they were having the time of their lives. Their destination at Sea World San Diego included a three day camp to learn about animals, other kids and themselves.

However, before all the fun began, the students had to earn their way there.

“It was their responsibility within a very short period of time to be able to get their grades up and then keep them up,” said Stephen Williamson, Unit Director from the Schumann Branch of the Boys and Girls Club of Central New Mexico. “It wasn’t just about, OK let’s see if you can get B’s and you get a B and you can now just do nothing. It was like get a B and these kids were suddenly invested in what they had done and they really wanted to prove that they could continue with that.”

In addition to keeping good grades, the students had to write essays and perform other duties.

The entire trip was funded by an organization called the Student and Youth Travel Association Youth Foundation, or SYTA. Their goal was to broaden the kids horizons through travel and teaching. This also included providing a leadership facilitator who worked with the kids in groups as a means of motivation and teaching life lessons.

Sea World’s part in the fun came in the form of providing the camp facilities, counselors and the chance to see behind the scenes along with getting first hand experiences between the children and animals.

“That’s what the Sea World education department is all about,” said Mike Dunn, Camp Manager at Sea World San Diego. “And it’s wonderful that we have this opportunity to help these kids.”

From petting sharks and porcupines, to getting splashed by dolphins and even touching jellyfish. There wasn’t any shortage of what the kids got to experience.

“Once you connect with an animal, it makes a special experience,” added Dunn. “And it’s been shown that people that make a first hand connection with an animal often times in the future have better knowledge about the animal and are willing to help protect and save the environment or habitats of that animal.”

It’s that once in a lifetime experience the kids can now pass on to others back home.

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