Saving Sea Turtles
Young woman makes it her life’s work to save endangered species
Did you know a sea turtle can live to be 80 years old? That’s roughly the same as the average American lifespan.
That is where the similarities end. Each year thousands of hatchling turtles emerge from their nests along the southeast U.S. Atlantic coast. But only a small percentage survive to adulthood. Most sea turtles found in U.S. waters are listed as endangered.
Casey Sokolovic learned this unfortunate fact during a visit to a sea turtle hospital when she was just eight years old. Casey, now a 20 year old college junior, has made it her life’s work to protect sea turtles from coast to coast.
“That visit to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital ignited a passion in me. I knew I had the power to make a difference,” Casey shared. The young woman is the founder of Love A Sea Turtle (L.A.S.T.), a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the world’s sea turtle population
She started off small. Baking and selling turtle-shaped cookies to raise money for the hospital. As she got older, her ideas and outreach blossomed to awareness-raising t-shirts and social media campaigns, and on to an annual 5/10k run.
Her efforts even inspired a coffee drink. Visit Joe Van Gogh Coffee and try the Organic Sea Turtle Blend Coffee. Buy a bag of beans and 50 cents go to the Sea Turtle Hospital.
Casey always looks for new ways to raise awareness of the sea turtle’s plight. As a Boys & Girls Club volunteer, she discovered many of the members had never been to the beach or been kayaking or snorkeling. She also realized many of these kids did not enjoy core school subjects such as Science and Math.
Casey knew L.A.S.T. could help. Working with her local community, she brought the Upstream Downstream Connection summer camp program to life. The camp gives students from local Boys & Girls Clubs the opportunity to trace freshwater sources to the coast, discovering the connections and conducting service-learning projects along the way.
With State Farm financial support, she executed a school-based program in North Carolina. The program equips teachers and classrooms in multiple school systems to create a statewide stream monitoring and environmental awareness program, engaging students on four river basins.
Throughout the year, L.A.S.T. keeps students engaged through service learning opportunities such as MLK Day of Service and Earth Day. Casey also speaks across the US about the plight of sea turtles and inspires others to get involved.
Casey began L.A.S.T. with the intent to protect sea turtles, but her dedication and enthusiasm has grown the organization to reach thousands of students. Casey describes the progress of L.A.S.T., to the “slow and steady” growth of a sea turtle.
Casey’s advice for students (and anyone of any age, really) is to “find your passion, pursue it, and be the difference.”
Want to find volunteer opportunities near you? Visit Neighborhood of Good and make a positive difference in your neighborhood.
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