(September 25, 2020) --

Paul Miles offers advice and answers questions as Bay Voyager campers take part in a fish dissection. In the background, Tommie Kennedy can also be seen helping campers.

This summer two Marine Science High School Course alumni returned to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab campus as counselors for Discovery Hall Programs.

Participation in the DISL’s summer camps and the month-long course in marine science helped to shape the college and career paths of Tommie Kennedy and Paul Miles. Kennedy is studying elementary education at Sneed State. Miles is a geologist in Atlanta. Both have a passion for sharing what they love about the environment and Discovery Hall Programs. 

"They're all around really good programs. That's why I kept coming back and that’s why I wanted to come back and be a counselor," Kennedy shared. "It's just awesome down here. You learn so much."

Kennedy spent eight consecutive summers at DISL taking part in every camp offered by Discovery Hall Programs. Her experience was different each summer with new things to see and learn. One summer in the salt marsh, Kennedy and her fellow campers saw a stingray give birth. Another summer she saw a sea turtle hatch and witnessed the release with Share the Beach. 

Now as a counselor, Kennedy has enjoyed being a part of leading the experience.

“It’s a full circle. Seeing it through their eyes and getting to experience it with them,” Kennedy said. “I feel like I'm giving back a little bit because I loved it so much.”  

Miles echoes Kennedy’s sentiments on sharing what he’s learned. He also shared his expertise as a geologist with campers when he led them on a fossil walk near campus. 

"We talked about how fossils formed and the rocks they form in," Miles explained. "They found crinoids and brachiopods. Even though it wasn't these great big dinosaurs, they were still excited. The little stuff is super important and them being able to see that is really awesome."

Tommie Kennedy takes a photo break during the Bay Voyager kayak trip.

The marine science class covers a lot of information and experiences in 4 weeks from plankton to collecting techniques to marine careers giving the students a wider view of what it means to be and do as a marine scientist. For some, that wider view shifts their interest and helps them discover a new passion. 

“I went in wanting to be a marine biologist,” Miles said. “In college, I took a course called oceanography and it pushed me more towards the geologic side of marine science. But, still to this day, I can't imagine not doing anything that involves science and the pursuit of knowledge. “

Kennedy and Miles both appreciate the opportunity to reminisce about their time as a student at DISL and the chance to see how the current students grow with the program. 

“It's great to see just the way that these kids appreciate the program,” Miles said. “Not only the program but the environment and what they're learning.” 

“You learn so much,” Kennedy added. “You build such good relationships with your campers and also with the educators and counselors.”

Discovery Hall Programs hires counselors for all of its summer overnight programs.  Dr. Miller-Way, Chair of Discovery Hall, says that having positive and caring counselors makes all the difference in having a good vs a great program.  “We are so appreciative of all of our counselors and are truly honored when past campers and students choose to come back and help make great programs happen for others.”   

Discovery Hall Programs offers summer camps for all ages and the residential class in marine science for high school students. Learn more about these opportunities at disl.edu/dhp.