Thursday, February 22, 2024

CHS Alums, Katie Hearther and D’amy Steward, Win Coveted Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship

Katie Hearther (left) and D’amy Steward.

Coronado High School alums, Katie Hearther and D’amy Steward, were selected as recipients of The Ernest F. Hollings scholarship. The Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship was established in 2005, in honor of Senator Ernest F. Hollings, who was well known for supporting ocean policy and conservation. It includes a two-year academic scholarship and a summer internship opportunity for full-time undergraduate STEM and education majors. Students apply in their second year of undergraduate study and must have a 3.0+ GPA.

Scholarship recipients receive an academic award of $9,500 per year, as well as a 10-week, full-time, paid summer internship at any NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) facility nationwide, with all travel expenses included in the award. Scholars receive funding to present their NOAA research projects at up to two national scientific conferences.

The Coronado Times interviewed both Katie and D’amy to learn more about their studies, their goals and and get a glimpse of how they plan on impacting the world on the land and especially in the water.

Where are you currently studying and what major(s) have you declared?  

Katie Hearther:  I am a sophomore at the University of Washington double-majoring in Oceanography and Marine Biology, with a minor in Arctic Studies. I chose the University of Washington because of its pioneering undergraduate Oceanography program that offers several unique opportunities for its students, such as the opportunity to complete our senior capstone projects on the RV Thomas G Thompson, a 274-foot research vessel.

The Pacific Northwest is also where I had my first memorable experience with the ocean; when I was 6 years old I got to listen to orca calls through a hydrophone. My second love is the mountains, and Seattle definitely doesn’t disappoint in this area. The North Cascades, Olympic mountain range, and Mount Rainier are easily accessible for outdoor adventures.

D’amy Steward:  I am a sophomore at Duke University, double-majoring in 1] Biology with Ecology Concentration and 2] Environmental Science with Marine Science and Conservation Concentration.

I chose Duke University because of the emphasis it places on interdisciplinary research. It is important to incorporate people from different disciplines to work on a problem to see all sides of the issue and the solution. The Duke University Marine Lab was also a huge draw for me as I just spent my last semester traveling to Belize, Singapore, Malaysia, and St. Croix for classes. Duke not only allows but encourages independent undergraduate research. The campus is gorgeous and I felt right at home with the student body. The school spirit is a big part of campus life. The basketball team isn’t bad either. For these reasons, I fell in love with Duke University.

When you found out you were selected for this scholarship, what was your reaction?  Scholarship recipients receive an academic award of $9,500 per year, as well as a 10-week, full-time, paid summer internship at any NOAA facility nationwide, with all travel expenses included in the award. Scholars receive funding to present their NOAA research projects at up to two national scientific conferences.

Katie Hearther:  I think “ecstatic” is a good word. I have two younger sisters who also need to fund their post-secondary education, and the monetary compensation from this award relieves a lot of the financial burden and makes more funds available to them. I was also in a tiny bit of shock. I have planned on applying for this program since my senior year of high school, and to receive the notification of acceptance just felt surreal.

D’amy Steward:  Complete shock and excitement. I had to reread the email several times to convince myself that I had actually been accepted.

Can you share where you plan on completing your 10-week internship?

Katie Hearther:  We will receive a list of locations and facilities later this year to make our official choice, but I hope to return to Oahu and work at the Inouye Regional Center at Pearl Harbor. Alaska would be wonderful as well.

D’amy Steward:  At this moment, I have no idea. The purpose of the orientation we are about to attend in Silver Springs, MD is to learn about the different departments and options available for next summer. I don’t know where I’ll end up or what project I will be working on, but I am looking forward to next summer.

Can you share what your research project will be?

Katie Hearther:  Nothing is finalized yet, but I am interested in working with NOAA’s Marine Debris Program to focus on the impacts of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems. Hawai’i is a hotspot for debris accumulation due to its proximity to the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, the location of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. I am also interested in coral bleaching and finding out to what degree ocean acidification aggravates it. Overall, I am interested in the human impacts on the ocean and the life within it, and hope to use research to advocate for policy that creates positive change.

D’amy Steward:  I don’t know yet.

When did you know you had a passion for to study the ocean/environment?  Did you family encourage it?

Katie Hearther:  I have loved the ocean and dreamed of studying it as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until my senior year of high school in Hawai’i that I came face to face with how humans are impacting the ocean and environment. I learned about ocean acidification and climate change, and became determined to educate others.

The most memorable moment, however, was during my first beach cleanup with 808 Cleanups, a local nonprofit. We traveled to Kahuku, on the northeastern side of Oahu, which faces the garbage patch. When we arrived, the beach was absolutely inundated with minuscule pieces of microplastic that could only be removed by sifting the sand. There were massive tangles of fishing nets and traps, known as derelict fishing gear, choking the reef just offshore. After that day I decide to eliminate plastic from my life as much as possible, and share with others what I had seen. My family followed suit, and we have drastically reduced our plastic use. They have always encouraged me to follow my passions and continue to do so.

D’amy Steward:  I could swim before I could walk and scuba dive before I could drive. I began cleaning the beach with the Rotary Club of Coronado as soon as I could walk. The seeds of conservation were planted early for me. I grew up sailing and surfing. Everything I have ever done has been in the ocean, so I have always loved the ocean and environment. However, a SEA Semester at Sea voyage aboard a tall ship the summer after my freshman year sealed the deal for me and set me on this path. My family has supported me the entire way and I could not be more grateful.

During high school I served as the West Coast Ambassador for Sailors for the Sea, a nonprofit organization in Rhode Island dedicated to educating the boating communities for a cleaner ocean. I sailed Laser Radials and found myself at dozens regattas up and down the coast and across the country. I spoke at sailing regattas, workshops, yacht club dinners, and schools. My message was simple: Pick up three pieces of trash each day, use reusable water bottles, and convince your friends to do the same.

I also became involved with Earth Echo International another conservation organization headed by Jacque Cousteau’s grandson, Philippe Cousteau. I conceived and lead implementation of 3T4E — Three pieces of Trash For the Earth— a grassroots initiative in which volunteers pick up three pieces of trash, post a selfie. By doing this we leveraged social media to promote the global program. The effort reached 1.6 million people in 19 countries. I began my own website,, designed to highlight and synergize ocean conservation efforts. Leveraging social media, educating public about ocean health and inspiring others to act.

What classes or teachers that inspired you while attending school in Coronado? 

Katie Hearther:  I had four teachers that made my experience at Coronado High School very special. Mr. Aldworth taught me not to take myself so seriously and loosen up a bit. Ms. Davis taught me how to struggle with difficult problems and use my resources to solve them. Mr. Lemei helped me realize that there is more to education than grades. I still have a difficult relationship with physics, but he taught in a way that made the subject absolutely fascinating and ensured I knew how the concepts were important to the real world. Mr. Chao taught me how to write, which is an essential skill across all disciplines, and how to have fun doing it! All of these teachers left me with fond memories of CHS and advice that I have carried with me through college.

D’amy Steward:  There are so many teachers that helped me along the way to get to this point. Teachers in Coronado often make an effort to get to know you beyond the classroom. They want to know what you are passionate about and help you achieve your goals. There are so many inspiring teachers: Mr. Couture, Ms. McGreevy, Mr. Heskestad, Mr. Chao, and Ms. Belong to name a few. The list goes on and on. Ms. Jensen helped me on my path with my love of the ocean. Her career as a marine biologist excited me and made me want to learn more. Mr. Lemei helped me strive for higher level science and showed me a whole new world. Mrs. Hill encouraged me to share my love of the ocean with others. I am grateful to all of my Coronado teachers.

What are your plans after graduation?  Where do you see yourself 5 years after graduation?

Katie Hearther:  I plan to take a year off to explore my interests, and then apply to a graduate program that will provide me the opportunity to expand them even further. Five years after graduation, I hope to be pursuing a Master’s degree in marine science, perhaps followed by a PhD. No matter what specific topic I end up pursuing I will continue to volunteer, educate, and advocate for the ocean. This could mean starting a nonprofit, becoming a professor, or simply speaking to as many people as I can about the absolute wonders contained in the ocean and how our actions are threatening them.

D’amy Steward:  After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school to continue my studies in pursuit of a PhD. In five years, I hope to be conducting research at a university.

If you could solve one issue impacting our oceans and environment, what would you want solved first?  Why?

Katie Hearther:  This is a difficult question…I would change how detached humanity is from the ocean and environment, and eliminate the everyday complacency that seems to hinder conservation efforts at every turn. Not everyone needs to be crazy passionate about the ocean, but a little education and compassion can go a long way. I truly believe that if people were made more aware of environmental issues they would make small lifestyle changes that have enormous impacts. Things like carrying your own utensils and metal straws, using public transit, and being conscious of your impact on the planet. People have to care before large amounts of progress can be made.

D’amy Steward:  Before we can solve any issues plaguing our oceans we must work to raise public awareness. Too often people are unaware of the enormity of the issues or are misinformed. Before people can take action, they must understand the issues and care enough to engage personally and civically. For example, scientists say there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and refuse plastic. Action begins with awareness. Once this is accomplished, then we can begin to tackle problems impacting out oceans and environment.

What would you say to CHS students that wanted to follow in your footsteps? 

Katie Hearther:  This is super cheesy, but follow your passions. You have your whole life to work and have a career. Use college to delve deeper into your interests, explore new ideas from different viewpoints, and enjoy yourself. Do not be afraid to ask for help, and find a mentor! Professors are full of knowledge and want to see you succeed. The big secret, at least at my school, is that no one really knows what they’re doing. We are figuring it out as we go! The most important thing to remember during the thrilling transition to college is that everything will eventually be okay.

D’amy Steward:  Do something you are passionate about. There is no point in pursuing something you aren’t completely passionate about. Don’t try to please other, do what you love. Once you find your niche, dig in and start finding people who can help guide you along your path. Make as many contacts as possible and get involved with as many things as possible. When people recognize your passion, they want to help you achieve your goals.

Congratulations to these two ocean-minded Coronado alums!

Coronado Times Staff
Coronado Times Staff
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