Voyage to Discovery 2013 essay contest brings history to life

July 3, 2013 – The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF), in collaboration with the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) announces two winners of the Voyage to Discovery (VtD) Essay Contest.

Entries received from around the country were judged on originality, clarity, and content. The Voyage to Discovery Essay Contest is part of a broad NOAA initiative to build public awareness about the legacy of African-American contributions to America’s maritime heritage.

Isaac Vazquez, an 8th grader, won the VtD Essay Contest at the middle school level. Vazquez attends LaBrum Middle School in Philadelphia. He wrote about Doris Miller, an African-American sailor in the United States Navy who performed heroically saving the lives of many sailors when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Vazquez will receive a $500 prize to continue his education.

Patricia Edou, a 10th grader, won the VtD Essay Contest at the high school level. Edou attends Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, Tenn. She wrote about William Tillman, a free African-American who became a Civil War hero when he risked death to recapture a Union ship that had been captured by the Confederates. Edou said she will purchase books and laboratory fees for science and engineering classes with her $1,500 prize.

“Voyage to Discovery recognizes the many ways in which African-Americans have shaped our nation’s history at sea, bringing to life little known stories of unsung American heroes. NMSF is proud to support this initiative, and I congratulate Isaac and Patricia for their winning essays,” said Jason Patlis, President and CEO, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

Voyage to Discovery features stories, interviews, and videos that seek to expand students' understanding of how our nation's rich history is tied to the ocean and celebrated through our national marine sanctuaries. Information about many African-Americans instrumental in U.S. maritime history is available on the Voyage to Discovery website.

“We congratulate Isaac and Patricia and encourage all of today’s students to not only learn about African-American’s historical contributions to our nation’s maritime history, but to embrace the study of math, science, engineering and other subjects that will equip them to become pioneers in our country’s maritime future,“ said Daniel J. Basta, Director, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Learn more about the Voyage to Discovery Essay Contest

Above photos courtesy of Mystic Seaport


NMSF received the following letter from Patricia Edou after she was awarded a scholarship for her essay, posted here with permission:

Dear National Marine Sanctuary Foundation,

I would like to personally thank you all for offering this opportunity and taking the time to review my essay. Also, I would like to thank you all for helping our oceans and spreading the word to make a change! By doing this essay contest, I have not only learned about what things have happened on the sea but I have gained a huge love for what is within it. Conservation and preservation of the immense and beautiful bodies of water are now my goal. I have learned so much from all of you and the information that I now know is available and I also now know that even a seemingly small change is a big one.

At my high school (Oak Ridge High) I am aiming to start an ocean conservation club after everything I have learned. I found that many people were confused on why (us being in a land-locked state) though what we put in our rivers is what goes out to sea. So, I found that the classroom activities on the national marine sanctuaries sites will be perfect to use to test on the rivers to show what we are sending out to sea.

I never expected this program to go so far and be so significant in my life. I am going to do plenty of river clean ups and spreading of the word. Our oceans need people who care like you all. The ocean needs us and the ocean world needs the ocean so I would like to thank you again for opening my eyes and my heart.

Let the sea set you free!

Patricia Edou
Oak Ridge, TN


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