Please join the NAUI Board of Directors and NAUI Diversity Committee in congratulating Sarah Yerrace on being selected as the first ever NAUI Diversity Scholarship Recipient! Sarah will work to earn her NAUI Instructor Certification this fall and join the NAUI family. Sarah has worked in several capacities to increase diversity in both recreational and professional diving and will continue to do so as a NAUI Instructor.
Applications for additional scholarships will open again in 2023. Details can be found at https://www.naui.org/about/naui-diversity-scholarship/
I’ve been diving for nearly a decade and have had experience in all types of underwater environments: from the clear, warm waters of the Caribbean to the cold, murky waters of the Pacific Northwest. In 2018 I completed an AAUS scientific diving course through the University of Washington. Since then, I’ve used SCUBA as a scientific tool for various research projects, from benthic habitat surveys to coral restoration and my own research projects on goby speciation and lionfish ecology. In addition to recreational and scientific diving experience, I’ve also spent three years working in aquariums operating under commercial diving standards. While working at the Mississippi Aquarium, through our guest immersion program, I led safe underwater experiences for over 2,000 guests of all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities. I created an internship designed to help kick start an aquarium divers’ career. I trained two interns while at the aquarium.
To stay active in the dive community, I help moderate a growing group of over 30,000 women divers that provides advice, support, and guidance for divers of all levels. I help organize and participate in events for these groups. I’m an active member of the Association of Dive Program Administrators (ADPA) and currently serve on their Professional Development Committee, tasked with organizing training opportunities to members twice a year. In 2022, I organized and moderated a panel of women dive professionals to discuss topics such as pregnancy while working as a professional diver, imposter syndrome, and discrimination.
In 2023, I am organizing another workshop called “Diversity in Diving” to continue these important discussions with more diverse voices and provide inclusion and equity training to dive program managers.
I volunteered to help another ADPA member collect industry-wide data on several metrics, from number of dives per year, to staffing, demographics, pay, and other information. The intention is to use these data to ensure fair pay between different genders and begin taking steps towards equal representation and increasing diversity in the professional dive community.
As an intersectional member of an underserved community, active participation in these pursuits is incredibly important to me. Becoming an open water SCUBA instructor is the next step but is not by any means the last step. My diving goals extend beyond getting my instructor certification. I want to continue learning, leading, and inspiring others for decades to come in a lifelong, safe career in diving. I want to challenge myself with more advanced courses in tech diving and working my way towards the knowledge and experience necessary for instructor trainer and eventually a course director. Ultimately, I want to connect more people to aquatic environments. This personal connection and firsthand experience with the ocean is critical to inspiring action and conservation. By becoming a NAUI instructor and teaching, I can help bring more people underwater and expand the diving community. Surely diversity is one of the greatest strengths of the diving community. There are so many amazing divers with different backgrounds, but we are all connected by our love of diving.