CCMI Marks 10 Years of Supporting Caymanian Students Through YELC Programme

March 1, 2022

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) is marking an important anniversary for the Young Environmentalist Leadership Course (YELC) in 2022 – 10 years of running an important programme that trains and prepares young Caymanians for careers in marine science/conservation or the dive tourism/watersports industry. YELC takes a small cohort of participants through an intensive, hands-on experience over several months and across several islands each year, providing them with knowledge, dive training, soft skills, and field experience to help launch them to the next step as they complete school.

The support of YELC programme sponsors – Foster’s, Cayman National, and Go Pro Diving – since the inception of the programme has provided more than 90 participants with full course scholarships that covers the dive training fees, flights to/from Little Cayman, accommodations at the Little Cayman Research Centre, diving, and other costs associated with the experience.

Woody Foster, Managing Director of Foster’s explains why they have supported the YELC programme since the beginning, “Coral reefs are so important to the health of Cayman’s ecosystem. We’re delighted to continue to support CCMI’s efforts to educate youth and the general public on issues impacting our islands’ marine environment and what we as a people can do to protect and restore it.”

Applications for the 2022 YELC programme are currently being accepted by CCMI through 31st March 2022. This programme is open to Caymanian students or PR holders, ages 16-20, who have an interest in pursuing a career in marine science or the dive tourism/watersports industry. Interested students must first apply to CCMI then participate in an interview process.

During the first part of the programme, YELC participants complete their PADI dive training in Grand Cayman with Go Pro Diving. All students then attend a 10-day immersive, hands-on experience at the Little Cayman Research Centre from 12 – 21 July 2022. During that time, they will work on field projects, take part in night dives, experience lionfish dissections, attend CV workshops and mock job interviews, assist with CCMI’s ongoing research, learn about local environmental and conservation issues, and interact with professionals from a variety of companies and organisations in related fields.

CCMI’s Director of Research, Dr. Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, states, “CCMI created this programme to build skilled and enthusiastic environmental ambassadors while bridging an important gap for local students that may not have access to post-secondary education in the Cayman Islands. Participants complete the course, leaving with tangible dive and emergency first responder qualifications, as well as real-life, skills-based experience that not only helps guide them in the future but also provides excellent references for CVs and interviews with potential educators or employers.”

Recognizing there was a need in Cayman to support local students who were interested in careers in related fields, CCMI created YELC to provide this opportunity. After nearly a decade, CCMI is seeing YELC alumni flow into professional roles in the dive tourism and environmental science fields in the Cayman Islands. As part of the commitment to these students in 2022, CCMI will lead a more active YELC alumni experience, maintaining contact with participants, providing opportunities to practice dive skills, and offer important support as students further their careers on island.

Additional information about YELC can be found on CCMI’s website (; the application can be downloaded at  Students who are interested in participating in the programme should complete and submit their application materials to CCMI’s education department at no later than end of day on 31st March 2022. Interviews will take place in April, and successful participants will be notified shortly thereafter.

YELC 2018 alumnus Uton Whittaker said, “This programme has given me so many networking opportunities for my future in watersports in Cayman. Everyone should apply for this programme and take advantage of the awesome opportunity that CCMI is offering. It allows people like me who grow up on an island to experience the underwater world.”