First, it’s not just about fishing. It’s about changing the lives of at-risk youth using marine-related activities, introducing them to career alternatives they never knew existed, and teaching love and respect for our natural environment.
Program Director Shannon Lalime, a biologist herself, described the impact this way: “When we first reached out to Western Academy Charter, they were hesitant to schedule our program. They had safety concerns. They were wondering if the program was appropriate for their kindergarten and first-grade students. Those worries and concerns were cast out on day one. The students were so excited to be a part of Angling for a Healthy Future, our fishing program. They quickly grasped the basic fishing skills, casting and knot tying. Throughout the course, the students grew a love for our natural environment. They would bring in books about marine animals or pictures of the fish they caught that weekend. Parents and teachers would hang around the class to get a glimpse of what the students had been raving about.
“We even had a family come to visit us at the South Florida Fair to see our Mobile Marine Lab. The parents couldn’t stop talking about their son Gage’s new-found interest in marine science. A first-grader at the time, Gage now wants to be a marine biologist, which I’m personally thrilled about! Classes like these, where we get both the student and parents engaged, allow our students to reach their full potential.”
FFA now works with 13 different schools, community centers and cohorts across Palm Beach County delivering at least 23 classes per week.