Making Waves: Inner City-Youth Scuba Dive Team Transforms Lives in Springfield

Since October 2022, a groundbreaking initiative has been making a splash in the lives of 13 young people in Springfield. The Inner City-Youth Scuba Dive Team is the brainchild of Mr. Christopher Sutton, principal of Rebecca Johnson School and a certified scuba diver. The team is dedicated to providing young people with the opportunity to become proficient swimmers and certified scuba divers. This transformative experience aims to open up a world of possibilities, culminating in a life-changing trip to Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas in Summer 2025.


The Vision Behind the Team

The inspiration for the Inner City-Youth Scuba Dive Team came from Mr. Sutton’s recognition of the limited access to swimming and diving for many young people in Springfield. Scuba diving has traditionally been an exclusive activity, often out of reach for inner-city youth. Mr. Sutton, who is passionate about sharing the wonders of the ocean, envisioned a program that could bridge this gap and provide Springfield’s youth with access to this unique and enriching activity. Drowning has been identified as the leading cause of death for children.  This occurs 5 times more frequently in Inner Cities (with high poverty, few pools, and no Ocean access).  65% of Minority Children never learn to swim; this increases to 80% if their parents never learned.  Non-swimmers may never experience the 70% of Earth covered in water, which limits future recreation and career opportunities in fields like Marine Biology or Oceanography.  Research has found that Scuba Training provides life-long benefits and improves mental and physical health, confidence, communication, and teamwork.

Building Skills and Broadening Horizons

Since its inception, the program has been training students to become proficient swimmers, learn water safety, and prepare for their junior diving certification. Under the guidance of Mr. Sutton and Ms. Michelle Norman, the Parent and Community Coordinator, students have been immersed in rigorous training that goes beyond physical skills. The program integrates cross-content and curricular activities, including journaling, world studies, cultural proficiency, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) learning. This holistic approach ensures that participants not only gain diving skills but also enhance their educational and personal development.

Support and Collaboration

The success of the Inner City-Youth Scuba Dive Team is supported by a network of dedicated partners and sponsors. The Springfield YMCA, Mayor’s Office, Enfield Scuba, and Springfield School Volunteers have all played crucial roles in providing resources, support, and encouragement to the program. This collaborative effort underscores the community’s commitment to empowering its youth and opening doors to new opportunities.

Impact on Participants

Although this is the first year of the program, the impact on the participants has already been profound. One student shared, “I loved joining and being a part of the scuba diving team because I got to experience all these cool new things. Practicing with all the gear fascinated me. Knowing that I’ll get to use my knowledge of scuba diving in different places is exciting.” Another student noted, “I like being in the water. Since we started practicing, I have gotten more skilled at swimming. Now I can swim better, and the best part is that I get to swim with my friends.”

These testimonials highlight the transformative power of the program, as students gain confidence, develop new skills, and build lasting friendships.

Looking Ahead: The Bahamas Adventure

The pinnacle of the Inner City-Youth Scuba Dive Team’s journey will be the trip to Stuart Cove, Nassau, Bahamas. During this week-long adventure, participants will have the opportunity to snorkel and scuba dive in one of the world’s most beautiful underwater environments. This experience promises to be more than just a recreational activity; it will be an educational and cultural immersion that broadens the students’ perspectives and enriches their lives.

Your Support Is Needed

The community can support the Inner City-Youth Scuba Dive Team by making donations through Springfield School Volunteers, which serves as the fiscal sponsor for the program. Contributions will help ensure that this life-changing program can continue to provide opportunities for Springfield’s youth. Online donations can be made here or checks made payable to Springfield School Volunteers with Inner City Scuba Dive Team in the memo can be sent to

Springfield School Volunteers
1550 Main Street, 3rd Floor
Springfield, MA 01103

The Inner City-Youth Scuba Dive Team stands as a testament to the power of vision, dedication, and community support. By providing young people with the chance to explore the underwater world, it is making a lasting difference and helping these youth embark on the journey of a lifetime.

To learn more about the Dive Team (and see photos of their training), please visit their website at


2024-05-30T09:04:20-04:00May 29, 2024|

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