|MTSU sophomore Terrance Adams and his fellow representatives of the Diving with a Purpose program will travel to Washington, D.C., July 16-17 to accept the “Take Pride in America” award in the Public-Private Partnership category from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The “Take Pride in America” awards were authorized by Congress “to promote the appreciation and stewardship of public lands, including parks, forests, historic sites and schools,” said an Interior Department news release.
Diving with a Purpose (DWP) is a marine archeological training program developed by the late archaeologist Brenda Lanzendorf of Florida’s Biscayne National Park in collaboration with Kenneth Stewart and Eric Denson of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers’ (NABS) Southern region.
More than 13 African-American divers have trained through the program to become marine archaeologist instructors’ advocates and 41 more as archaeologists’ advocates with basic mapping and documenting skills. The DWP Web page defines underwater archaeology as “the study of past human life, behaviors and cultures using the physical remains found in salt or fresh water or buried beneath water-logged sediment.”
Stewart said divers in DWP have helped the National Park Service, a division of the Interior Department, to identify and research a number of sunken shipwrecks. He says the divers also helped to develop professional site plans for historical and archeological sites in Biscayne National Park.
“For the first couple of days, Terrance and (fellow diver) Marcus Johnson didn’t know what they were doing,” Stewart said. “But by the time they finished the program, they had mastered it completely.”
In addition to his work with NABS, Stewart is a co-founder of Tennessee Aquatic Project, which is described on its Web site as “a nonprofit organization established to expose young people to various aquatic, community, social, recreational, etc., activities they might not otherwise encounter.” It is designed for youth ages 8-18.
“I went to a party one time, and everybody knew how to swim except me,” Adams said. “I’ve been told by my peers that black people don’t scuba dive or swim. But how can you let a color determine who you are?”
Adams said most of the equipment he uses is donated or rented. He admited that he was reluctant to remain with the program when he was younger, but his mother prevailed, much to his delight.
“I was really ecstatic when I learned about the award,” Adams said. “I thought it was time that Diving with a Purpose received some recognition.”
The journalism major from Madison said he is content to stay with mass communication for now, but he says he has been told that the absence of a scientific degree will not necessarily impede his progress if he later chooses a career with, for example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
Adams will be joined in Washington by Stewart as well as fellow divers Jerald Jones, Marcus Johnson, Kwadjo Tillman and representatives of the Tennessee Aquatic Project. To learn more, go to www.tennesseeaquaticproject.com. To find out more about the National Association of Black Scuba Divers, go to www.nabsdivers.org.