July 16, 2013
Power Points, Sea Turtles, and Jimmy Buffett: Q+A with Ocean Hero Youth Finalist Cori McWilliams
BY: Justine Sullivan
Cori McWilliams – Vero Beach, FL.
Growing up near one of the country’s most important sea turtle nesting sites inspired Cori, 9, to protect the oceans at a young age. Along the way she has become a do-it-all sea turtle advocate. As an active volunteer with the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Cori has raised funds, organized beach clean ups and created a presentation to engage elementary school students in sea turtle conservation issues. To date she has shared her message with hundreds of students. Cori has led the STC’s Little Stewards Story Time – an ongoing reading and discussion of conservation issues found in the nature series of Suzanne Tate. Additionally, Cori organized her local Hands Across the Sand event in 2011 along Wabasso Beach at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.
Please describe your contribution to ocean conservation:
My contribution to ocean conservation is focused on sea turtles. In the past few years, I have joined the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s AdvoKids program…I am an active volunteer at the Barrier Island Center in Melbourne Beach, and volunteer at Tour de Turtles every summer. During the 2011-2012 school year, I wrote and presented a 27-page PowerPoint program about sea turtle conservation to my second grade class. Since then, I have presented this program to hundreds of elementary school students both at my school and other schools.
Please explain why your contribution is important and why voters should choose you as a winner of the 2013 Ocean Hero Awards:
My contribution to ocean conservation is important because other kids can look up to me and be inspired. Kids should understand that not only adults are responsible for ocean conservation. Every person that learns about ocean conservation can share their knowledge with other people, and they can all pass that on to their friends. The kids today will grow up to be leaders in the future, so it is really our responsibility to take care of the oceans as soon as we can. I hope that my accomplishments will inspire other kids to do the same.
What inspired you to get involved in ocean conservation?
I was inspired to get involved with ocean conservation because I am growing up near the ocean. Many people don’t understand that the ocean will not last forever unless we take care of it. Where I live is the second-largest sea turtle nesting area in the entire world, so it is important for everyone who lives here and visits to take care of our lagoons, beaches, and ocean.
What was your first victory and when did you start believing you could make a difference?
Cori definitely feels her first victory was her initial presentation of the sea turtle conservation program. Her teachers and fellow classmates realized they had a conservation powerhouse in-the-making among them, and it gave Cori the confidence to realize that people WILL listen to her and that she CAN make a difference, even as a child. As she has done programs for various groups, she has seen that she is very relatable to other kids and that due to this relatability they will listen more to her than adults. She is endlessly recognized locally by adults and children as the “turtle girl,” which makes me think she IS making an impression and that the knowledge and message she shares is being remembered.
Where do you want your ocean conservation efforts to go next?
Cori’s immediate plans are to continue educating others about marine conservation. Cori has already expressed interest in developing a non-profit organization which focuses on getting kids more involved in marine conservation, and hopes to bring this together in the next year or two with help from mom and dad! In the long-term, Cori wants to place additional focus on sea turtle conservation, educating others by becoming a sea turtle nesting walk school and eventually a sea turtle biologist.
How will you define success? What do you hope to accomplish through your ocean conservation efforts?
Cori said that she will know she is successful when she walks along cleaner beaches. That means that more adults and children are involved in conservation AND spreading the word to others.
Who is your personal Ocean Hero? Why?
My personal Ocean Hero is my mom. She got me involved with sea turtle work and ocean conservation, and supports me and helps me when I need it.
What is your favorite ocean or beach-related song or band?
My favorite singer is Jimmy Buffett because he sings about how wonderful the ocean is.
Inspired by Cori McWilliams? Vote for her to be a 2013 Youth Ocean Hero!