Education & Family

Taking the Plunge

Owings Mills nonprofit aims to broaden participation of minorities in aquatic-based sciences.

Dr. Nevada Windrow spent her childhood along the Delaware River in the boating community of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Always in or around water, the now pediatric neuropsychologist and PADI master scuba diver knew how to swim before she entered primary school.

Still, every time she visited the pool in her family’s apartment complex, she was asked to prove it. “It did not matter that I had been living there for several years and the lifeguards knew me,” says Winrow, who noticed that white children were never asked to perform a swim test.

In 2017, she and her daughter Taylor created The Black Girls Dive Foundation to promote water safety and address cultural narratives surrounding swimming activities. The Owings Mills-based organization, made possible through funding by the Society for Science and the Public and The Pollution Project, aims to broaden the participation of minorities in aquatic-based sciences by encouraging girls ages 9 to 17 to develop their STEAM identities. “Learning has to be authentic,” Winrow says, adding that the program’s goal is to offer transformative experiences that make learning sciences fun.

Through STREAMS, the foundation’s hallmark program, which stands for Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Art, Mathematics, and Scuba and Scientific Diving, lessons in leadership and marine conservation are integrated with basic scuba diving techniques.

Saturday meetings at the Liberty Road Recreation Center teach the girls everything from the basics of underwater photography to how to assemble their own remote-operated vehicles. However, many of the program’s learning experiences take place across the nation, like at the Georgia Aquarium, where during a slumber party last year, the girls swam with gentle giants in the waters of the Ocean Voyager Exhibit.

Each year, the program takes participants on a capstone project abroad, giving them the chance to showcase their leadership skills while learning about other cultures. Last November, 10 participants traveled to Egypt to sail the Nile River, explore the terrain of Sharm El Sheikh, and discover marine life in the Red Sea, where they dove in the Straits of Tiran and Ras Muhamad.

Winrow looks forward to expanding Black Girls Dive with Taylor, an associate scientist at Pfizer, to include foundation chapters on the West Coast and on Fiji, Samoa, and the Cook Islands. “My whole thing is about exposing them and giving them awareness of the careers that are out there and the academic pathway to achieving them,” Winrow says.

Columbia resident Pier Blake, whose 12-year-old daughter Sanaa Lee joined the foundation this year, is looking forward to receiving his own scuba certification. “She doesn’t get to have all this fun without me!” Blake says.