Hilton Head High School senior Delcie Swift received the Gold Award from the Girl Scouts of the USA Sept. 15, in recognition of her in-depth study of shark species. Her presentation on the subject is now on permanent display at the Coastal Discovery Lab at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn.
Swift began the shark project three years ago with the hope that it would improve the world’s perception and understanding of this keystone species. Her message is simple: Sharks aren’t scary!
The Girl Scouts Gold Award is among the most prestigious awards in the world, received by fewer than 6% of all scouts. A Girl Scout who has earned her Gold Award immediately rises one rank in any of the U.S. military branches.
Swift researched methods of sharing the importance of shark conservation, and Hilton Head shark expert Dr. Kim Ritchie suggested that early education was almost always overlooked. Swift launched her plan to spark a lifelong appreciation of nature conservation among children in kindergarten through fifth grade, which is when children develop ideas and hone their perspectives on the world.
Swift’s project includes charts, diagrams, books and craft activities – even shark teeth – and it focuses on tough issues: extreme overfishing, poaching of sharks worldwide, and the general lack of understanding about sharks. Movies and the occasional scary news report have created an image of sharks that is not accurate.
“I’ve known for a long time I wanted to build a career in marine conservation, and I wanted to share that with my community,” Swift said. “I’ve loved educating people on something I am passionate about. I’ve learned how to talk to others about marine life conservation, as well as working with adults with a similar love for the ocean and sharks. This experience has made me confident that I’ve chosen the right career path.”
Swift intends to study marine life conservation in college.
“It has been a wonderful sense of accomplishment to hear from museum volunteers that my display is wildly popular among kids,” Swift said. “I felt like I had made an impact on the age groups I had hoped to reach.”
When enough people are informed about an issue, according to Swift, it can change the world. She cites the powerful global response to climate change as proof that many little things make a huge difference. Her next project: tagging great white sharks.