Kameron D’Hue grew up playing around the docks and waters of West Bay, and watching scuba divers head out to sea, leading to a curiosity about what awaited beneath the water’s surface.

“I used to always see divers, dive staff and tourists coming and going scuba diving, and always wondered what it would be like to be under the water for a long period of time,” D’Hue said.

Shaun Jackson, meanwhile, grew up in Bodden Town, in a family with a long connection to the sea, and he has always had an interest in marine life.

The two young men waiting outside of the Inspire Cayman Training Centre caught up with each other ahead of the day’s scuba diving lesson. D’Hue, 21, from West Bay, and Jackson, 19, from Bodden Town, are the first students at Cayman’s new trade school,Inspire Cayman Training. They both chose the dive instructor certification course, under the authority of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

Jackson was out of work when his grandmother saw an ad for the PADI programme at Inspire Cayman and sent it to him. Jackson also had always wondered what it would be like to scuba dive.

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Aaron Hunt, ICT instructor and director of Eco Divers Reef Foundation, said the same mindset of taking on coral reef management is what attracted him to work with programmes like Inspire Cayman.

“There is value in protecting that which I see as critical for the future,” Hunt said. “So many people are interested in investing just for today, but Inspire Cayman is investing in the future.”

Hunt has been working with the two students since August, instructing them on the foundations of open water diving and other aspects required to qualify as a divemaster. He said D’Hue and Jackson were both awarded Bob Soto Memorial Scholarships by the Scuba Diving Hall of Fame.

“My goal is for these young men [not] just to be a dive instructor at a dive shop, but to be … leaders of the dive community.” Hunt said.

Jackson agreed with D’Hue that the most challenging concepts of the PADI course would be learning the physics of the divemaster’s level, which is the first level of professional diving that teaches them leadership skills, managing groups, and getting their first experiences with various dive companies.

Both students have found a renewed passion for their native waters. Learning about what the coral does for the ecosystem gave Jackson a new-found appreciation.

“We Caymanians don’t know what we really have, because if everyone could see what we really have down there, I guarantee government wouldn’t have a choice [but] to shut down the [cruise port project],” Jackson said.

D’Hue said before he started scuba diving, he had only a vague inkling of what was in Cayman’s waters. “We have to be grateful and appreciative with what we have down there, because it’s amazing,” he said.

Hunt said the education he is giving the students is helping them develop the concept in their own minds about why Cayman’s underwater environment is worth protecting. “It’s a rare and unique opportunity that most other places in the world wouldn’t even be able to consider, and they are very lucky and quite excited about what these opportunities could translate to,” Hunt said.

D’Hue and Jackson are set to complete the course in January.

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