Outdoor Leaders Who Inspire Us: Sea Potential
We recently talked with a few local outdoor groups we admire to learn more about how they are building better futures for their communities.
At WTA, we are constantly inspired by the organizations doing powerful work to create a brighter and more inclusive future for the outdoor community. We recently talked with a few groups we admire, including Savannah Smith from Sea Potential, to learn more about how they are building better futures for their communities.
Can you tell us about Sea Potential’s mission?
Sea Potential’s mission is to cultivate a full cycle of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) representation in maritime jobs, which we define as any career connected to water. We have two main ways we carry out this mission. The first is youth engagement. We help youth foster heart-based connections to marine and aquatic environments. The second way is corporate advancement, which means we are helping maritime industry businesses promote representation over assimilation.
What inspired you to start Sea Potential?
Despite growing up on opposite ends of the country, Ebony Welborn and I faced similar challenges and frustrations as Black women pursuing an interest in the White-dominant field of marine science. We realized we wanted to support future generations. We found there was a huge opportunity to support the community in the whole maritime industry, which is undergoing a shift as older, White males are retiring faster than they are replaced. This is an industry that offers high-paying, stable careers and we felt there was a lack of awareness in the community about it. At the same time, there is also a lack of understanding within the maritime industry of how to attract and support diversity. We decided on addressing this issue through multiple angles with Sea Potential.
Why is this work so important?
We are creating spaces where everyone can feel seen, heard and valued. Our work is more than just sharing information; it is rooted in relationship building and healing. We build community, whether that’s person to person, or between people and water, animals or the environment. We invite people to reflect, be curious and show up as their authentic selves. When you engage the heart, you are able to inspire people to be lifelong learners, connectors, stewards and so on.
What should people know about your work?
I want people to know that our work is BIPOC centered and informed by BIPOC perspectives, but the lessons, reflections, celebrations, etc. — the product of our work, essentially — is of value to everyone.
How do you uplift the communities you serve?
Our name helps paint this picture. We like to say that Sea Potential is advocating for the wider community to see potential in BIPOC, and encouraging BIPOC to see their potential of thriving in marine spaces.
How does Sea Potential serve as a leader?
As far as we know, our organization is the only one with such a niche focus on connection to water and marine spaces, and one that is addressing the issue from youth and workplace culture angles simultaneously. We think of ourselves as thought leaders and community connectors who help bring ideas to life or spark new ideas. We are co-creators and lead through our passion for bringing ideas to fruition.
Are there any projects you’re really excited about right now?
Yes, probably too many to touch on! The project we have coming up soonest, though, is our Rippling Effects Program for BIPOC youth 15–18. In this program we will be doing some intertidal restoration at Herring House Park, meeting and working alongside EarthCorps’ BIPOC professionals, taking a canoe and kayak tour supported by Herons Nest that highlights Duwamish history and culture, doing some tidepooling and just connecting with water and each other! It’s going to be so fun; we can’t wait! We are also able to provide youth stipends to help offset the need for youth to choose responsibility over passion and interest.