Monday, September 7, 2009

Coastal Stewards Program Makes Big Impact

By Carrie Samis

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, stimulus funding – we hear about it and read about it often, but what do those dollars look like when spent? Are they making a difference? How do they help our community? How do they benefit our coastal bays? And, perhaps most importantly, how do they impact lives?
Through its partnership with Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program was able to hire eleven area young men and women to be Coastal Stewards, a summer youth employment program partnership funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

As a Coastal Steward, Joriee’ Dorman learned “to love it, live it, and breathe it. It was a rewarding and enriching experience that I was blessed to have. Seeing a little child’s face light up when they touch a comb jelly, a family crabbing in the marsh, eager visitors anxiously listening to learn more about our beaches and bays. Being a Coastal Steward opened my eyes to the diversity of the Lower Eastern Shore, my home. I grasped so much and learned about my own heritage, in a way that no classroom or lecture could teach me.”

Consider the broad smile of Joshua Moore, as he received his first paycheck – ever. And Todd Nock, who noted in his journal, “I’m seeing growth in myself and in others. When we first met Danielle, she was very quiet and did not say much but now, she has bloomed before our eyes,”

For the first time, Joe and Janae Dorman, siblings, found themselves gliding atop the Sinepuxent Bay in sleek kayaks. Arien Perry derived great satisfaction assisting with debris removal at Isle of Wight and Grey’s Creek – and talking to hundreds of residents and visitors about how they, too, could become better stewards of our environment.

Hoa Nguyen’s methodical approach in searching for sea beach amaranth, an endangered plant found on Assateague Island, was a contribution to scientific research welcomed by the National Park Service. Kedena Thompson was thrilled for the opportunity to meet with so many community leaders, elected officials, and agency representatives, exploring future career opportunities as she prepared to leave for graduate school.

Carlos Thompson is now excited to bring his own young daughter to test the water – and dip her toes in our coastal bays, something he had never done prior to this summer. Moved by the passion of others, Stephen Castaneda found himself “motivated to care about the well-being of our environment.” “This job gave me a chance to shine and make a difference,” Danielle Miller said proudly.

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program feels privileged to have spent the summer with such incredible young people – the next generation of stewards protecting our bays. Thanks to the ARRA funding, our Coastal Stewards left a little richer – with money in their pockets. But thanks to the strength of our partnerships and the dedication of our Stewards, our lives and theirs were enriched beyond measure.

Collaboration with Assateague National Park, Assateague State Park, Worcester County and many local parks, museums, and towns ensured that our Coastal Stewards were working on meaningful programs and projects throughout the region. They helped to educate thousands of residents and visitors about our local natural and cultural history, and assisted with a variety of stewardship projects, for the benefit of our bays.

Funding was also provided by the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance, the National Park Service, and the Ocean City-Berlin Optimists.

Samis is the education coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. She can be reached at

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