Aquarium of the Pacific’s new scholarship program offers $50K to African American students

African American college students pursuing studies related to careers in the aquarium field can begin applying for a new scholarship program funded by donors of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

The African American Scholar Program will award $50,000 a year to recipients studying fields such as ocean education, animal husbandry, water quality, building maintenance or facilities, microbiology and business management. Recipients will also be awarded opportunities of engagement with aquarium staff, such as an internship, to gain hands-on experience in their field of study.

Peter Kareiva, president of the aquarium, said he was very proud of the aquarium’s board of directors for developing the scholarship and noted the importance of offering these opportunities to African American students.

“Look, I know that many good people hear phrases like ‘systematic racism’ and roll their eyes and say what does that have to do with me? Well here is the reality: African Americans are consistently denied the schooling and educational opportunities the rest of us take for granted. And when these young African Americans thrive in spite of underfunded public schools, many have to work full-time jobs while being college students,” he said. “This scholarship is only the beginning for what the aquarium intends to contribute.”

Anthony Brown, the aquarium’s Vice President and CFO, said he was excited and looking forward to chairing the committee that will determine the scholarship’s recipients.

“I think the fun part is seeing the young minds we could potentially impact and could have an impact on our aquarium too,” he said.

The exact number of scholarship recipients is still to be determined by the committee, Brown said. While the aquarium has been able to dedicate $50,000 they are still accepting donations in hopes that they can impact a wider pool of applicants.

“This is the first year we’re doing this, so the hope is that it can build momentum,” Brown explained. “We can maybe make an impact on a few students in the first year but [we hope] that it grows.”

Brown added that the aquarium would be open to partnering with a corporation if they were willing to participate.

Applicants of any age may apply but must be California residents of African American heritage, provide proof of acceptance or enrollment at an accredited university, community college or trade school studying the aforementioned fields and hold a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher from the most recent academic year. They must also provide a resume/CV, two letters of recommendation from a non-aquarium affiliated professional or instructor, and include a 500-word essay describing what inspired the applicant to pursue an education in their field of study.

Those interested may apply online at the Aquarium of the Pacific’s website or by mail and must submit their applications no later than midnight, Oct. 15, 2020.

Award recipients will be selected by a committee of aquarium staff members and members of the community, which will include between three and five members, Brown said. Recipients will be notified by Dec. 31, 2020.

To donate to the African American Scholar Program, visit the Aquarium of the Pacific’s website, here, or contact Ryan Ashton of the aquarium’s development department at (562) 951-1701 or by email at [email protected]

For more information visit the aquarium’s African American Scholar Program website, here.

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Cheantay Jensen is reporter and award-winning videographer who covers entertainment, art, food and culture for the Hi-lo section of the Long Beach Post. And sometimes breaking news, you know, just to keep things interesting.