Opening up new opportunities for Essex students

Cutting edge programs are being implemented at Essex Community School this year.

Mike Wells, Essex Community School Superintendent, serves as the assistant instructor for a Scuba Diving Certification Program that launched Oct. 19 for Essex students.

The program is part of the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) and is a lifetime certification for open water. Program instructor, Brian Hildreth, comes from Strac Scuba out of Des Moines.

Wells said Essex School is trying to implement programs that no other school district nearby offers to give students another reason to stay in the Essex Community School District.

“You can be small and have a great school,” said Wells. “We want kids to stay here.”

Classes are being held every other Saturday at the Clarinda Lied Center, and all students going through the program must be 12-years old.

Wells said they have 40 students from Essex interested in the Scuba Diving Certification Program.

Currently, a group of nine junior and senior students are participating in the program and will finish up right before Christmas. During the third quarter of school, freshman and sophomore students will participate in the program, and during the fourth quarter, junior high students will have an opportunity to participate.

Wells said cameras would be available for the students to use while diving so they can do photography underwater.

“It’s super fun, and it’s great for the kids,” said Wells.

After completion of the program and school board approval, the students will go to Mermet Springs, Illinois, or Florida to do their check out dive to become certified.

“We stay in churches and do community service on the way no matter where we go to try to give back to other people,” said Wells.

Wells plans to implement a Scuba Club after all the students are certified this year that will meet weekly to teach them new information about Scuba Diving.

The certification program through the school is step one. After completing this program, students will understand how diving affects the body; they will know their dive tables and how long they can dive. They will learn all the basic information needed, so after school, they will be able to go to a one-year post-secondary school.

“There’s a ton of jobs out there,” said Wells. “So for some of our kids who are workers and don’t want to go on to more schooling, it provides a really good opportunity for them. Probably the one, a lot of our kids, are interested in is underwater welding.” 

Wells said underwater welders can make $500 an hour but is hard on you and can be dangerous, and you have to be well trained.

Wells is also the Superintendent for the Hamburg Community School district. Hamburg School has been participating in the Scuba Diving Program for 20 years and is loaning Essex School their diving gear this year.

Wells said during this program; students are taught to care and be respectful to the environment and to give back.

“We teach kids not to touch,” said Wells. “If you touch the coral reef with your finger, it’s a 100-year death to that Coral Reef. It kills that spot you touched.”

“It’s the last frontier of our world,” said Wells. “They can dive anywhere in the world. You’ll be places no one has ever been.”

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