Wallace J. Nichols, a California Academy of Sciences marine biologist, is one of many to document the emotional and social benefits of water-related activities. In Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, Nichols used the term “blue mind” to describe the “calm, peacefulness, unity, and sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment” that people feel in and around water. Nichols writes that neurochemicals, which relay stress signals in the brain, recalibrate in water to low levels similar to those delivered by meditation, reducing stress and anxiety.

We teach children a healthy lifestyle and constructive hobby; guide kids away from drugs and violence; engage youth in the fight to preserve Florida’s fragile natural resources; and introduce them to the marine industry as a potential career path. In accomplishing our mission, we have four goals:

  • Build a new generation of environmental stewards
  • Arm youth with healthy tools to relieve stress, help them problem-solve and strengthen their self-esteem
  • Foster healthy family relationships
  • Expand the vocational choices available to at-risk youth

In addition to taking advantage of these empowering opportunities, each FFA class has a strong dose of character-building, leadership opportunities, confidence-building, emotional management, responsibility, problem-solving and teamwork and stress relief activities. Our students develop a sense of accomplishment while learning new skills, equipment maintenance, the joy of success in mastering an art form, and, most importantly, self-esteem. Our dream is to purchase a boat so we can expand our offerings to needy children.

We have found that fishing offers an exciting and engaging way to do just that. According to the Future Fisherman Foundation, fishing is a natural motivator and provides a fun and natural way to involve parents in their children’s lives. It is also inexpensive and accessible to everyone, regardless of ability or handicap, and it promotes healthy, positive lifestyles that boost self-confidence, ethics and a sense of civic duty. Yet there are few comprehensive programs in South Florida that teach kids to fish responsibly or to use fishing as a means for self-improvement and future employment. That is the void we fill.

Since 2006, FFA has taught fishing and life skills programs to nearly 15,000 aftercare students in over 100 public schools and Youth Empowerment Centers in predominantly low-income neighborhoods across Palm Beach County. We have given away thousands of rods and reels and taken students and their parents on hundreds of fishing trips to local waterways. Some of our graduates are already working as mates, lifeguards, camp counselors and boat builders, while others have moved on to college.