Wildwood 7th Grader Receives International Honor for Founding His Own Nonprofit
Posted 01/19/2012 10:37AM

Wildwood Student Dylan V.

Dylan V., the 13-year-old founder of ReefQuest, was named a Three Dot Dash Global Leader by the We are Family Foundation and will receive a grant and professional mentorship to help him advance his work on marine environmental stewardship. Dylan was one of 30 honorees selected from a pool of thousands of nominees from around the world.

"I am excited to be part of the global Three Dot Dash initiative because I hope to be able to tell my message of ocean conservation through science-based methods to a wider, global audience," says the Wildwood 7th grader, an avid sailor and scuba diver.

Dylan founded ReefQuest to challenge and inspire young people to tackle complex marine environment issues. The mission of the organization is to "engage kids and students everywhere to participate in citizen science in support of coral reef and marine habitats conservation and research."

A self-described science and math devotee, Dylan first became aware of the plight of coral reefs as a 7-year-old on vacation in Hawaii. While scuba diving, he was awed by the coral reefs’ bright colors and vibrant marine life. When he came back the following year, those beautiful reefs had changed dramatically. Gone were the colors; instead, they were white.

"It’s called bleaching," Dylan explains. "The animals in the reef had released their colors because of stress." Suddenly, Dylan says the family holiday went from vacation to "work trip." The budding scientist connected with marine biologists from the State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources and the University of Hawaii to learn more. And the more he learned, the more passionate he became.

"I started doing beach patrols and talking to anyone who seemed interested about what was happening to the reefs," he said.

Those early efforts led to the founding of ReefQuest. In addition to its message of empowerment, the organization creates classroom curriculum to engage students in problem-solving and data collection. Dylan credits Wildwood for inspiring the programs, which emphasize experiential, project-based learning. "You learn so much more by doing rather than sitting and listening," says Dylan. "I want to have more kids do that."

About Three Dot Dash: A global initiative of the We Are Family Foundation, Three Dot Dash recognizes and supports teens from around the world who are actively working on projects that promote a more peaceful society by addressing issues related to basic human needs: water, health, shelter, safety, education, and the environment.