During our meeting 3/9/2020 Nicholas Metropulos, Executive Director of Marine Education Initiative (MEI), introduced us to this nationally recognized organization, which focuses on marine environment education.  The special eduction method aims at empowering the next generation of environmental stewards through hands-on sustainable fishing programs, and at the same time also engages millennials and young people in exciting opportunities to further their knowledge and appreciation in protecting our marine ecosystems.
Nicholas told us how MEI currently reaches middle school age children through Boys and Girls Club programs and similar organizations to reach socio-economically disadvantaged children about their local marine and/or freshwater ecosystems.  MEI provides a 8-30 week program that begins with training high school students how to conduct the program for middle school age students, and by providing the curriculum for the sessions.  With a typical ration of about 4 middle school students for each trained high school student,  the sessions teach the students about the marine environment, the benefits it provides, and how to be responsible stewards.  Generally provided as an after school or summer camp program, the kids are taught about marine conservation, the perils of overfishing, invasive species, and ocean pollution through an educational curriculum we have developed.
Additionally, the children are taught the basics of the sport of fishing including: how to rig and cast rods, knot tying, how to throw a cast net, and how to clean and fillet fish properly. Each program emphasizes local fishing rules and regulations, fishing safety tips, and special tips on how to fish more sustainably.  Then, as a reward, when completing the curriculum, the students are taken on a fishing trip to apply what they have learned.  The MEI Facebook site provides recaps of the learning and fun experiences.
Another unique aspect of the MEI project is the Fishing Tournament Donation Program.  MEI strategically partners with fishing tournaments, allowing participants to re-purpose a portion of their unwanted catch and donate to a local soup kitchen. The youth and adult volunteers involved with the MEI program gut, clean, and fillet the fish which is then delivered to the soup kitchen where it is cooked and served. Those in need can seldom afford this incredibly valuable protein source, and often they need it most to supplement their nutrient-deficient diets.
MEI currently operates with after school programs in Boca Raton and Miami, and has conducted camp and tournament programs in Virgin Islands, Bahamas, and Durham, North Carolina.  Nicholas told us that they are hoping to expand the project and appreciate the opportunity to tell their story.  Nicholas has previously served on the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Youth Advisory Council and graduated from Hellenic College with a bachelor’s degree in Management & Leadership.