Save Our Youth shows kids a whale of a time

Anthony Santos,
Anthony Santos, 14, left, and Lisette Eleuterio, 14, both students at Newport Harbor High School and participants in Save Our Youth, take photos of a pod of common dolphins during a whale watching trip on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Newport Harbor High School freshman Lisette Eleuterio wants to be a marine biologist one day.

Friday’s whale-watching trip with Costa Mesa nonprofit Save Our Youth was one that Lisette had circled on her calendar.

“You get to explore new things, discover what’s new outside in the world, travel around to see what the new evolution is,” Lisette explained. “You get to see the old to the new, different species in the ocean.”

Before Friday, though, Lisette had never even been in a moving boat on the ocean. Such was the case with many of SOY’s students who took the two-hour whale watching trip with Davey’s Locker out of Newport Landing.

Though the kids did not see any large gray whales that are sometimes found off the coast, they did run into a very large pod of dolphins. Hundreds of dolphins surrounded the boat, many of them poking their heads in and out of the water.

A large pod of common dolphins is seen from the boat during a whale watching trip on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“It’s pretty interesting to be out in the open, use my senses to hear and see what’s out there,” said Lisette, who is in her first year participating in SOY, which serves low-income teens that attend schools in the Newport-Mesa Unified district. “A lot of times, kids are just on their phones. They don’t go out and see what’s new out there.”

Nineteen teenagers took part in Friday’s whale-watching trip, 16 of them high school students at Newport Harbor, Estancia or Costa Mesa.

SOY executive director Mary Cappellini said the leadership team developed a President’s Recess curriculum this week, while Newport-Mesa Unified School District is on a break that is often called “ski week.”

“Our kids don’t go skiing,” she said, adding that other activities planned this week included a scavenger hunt, art projects and virtual college tours with UC Santa Cruz, Chico State and Orange Coast College. On Saturday, kids from SOY will go on a hike in the Back Bay.

“They live so close to such beautiful areas in Newport and they’re part of the same school district, and yet often our kids on the west side of Costa Mesa don’t have the same opportunities,” Cappellini said. “We want them to be able to see that this is so close, they can come down on their own later.”

Erica Page, a marine naturalist, shows students from Save Our Youth (SOY) a skull of a dolphin during Friday's trip.
Erica Page, a marine naturalist, shows students from Save Our Youth a skull of a dolphin during a whale watching trip out of Davey’s Locker in Newport Beach on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

SOY paid for about half of the excursion for each student, Cappellini said, and also hired marine naturalist Erica Page to join in on the trip.

Page, who works for Davey’s Locker and Newport Landing, answered the students’ questions and provided them with interactive opportunities on board, like showing them the skull of a dolphin. She also showed how to simulate a whale’s hearing by tapping a vibrating tuning fork against students’ chins while they covered their ears.

“Every day [on the sea] is different ,” Page said. “You never really know what you’re going to see, and that’s kind of what keeps it fun.”

Estancia High School sophomore Valerie Madrid wouldn’t be opposed to getting back out on the water. Valerie is now a SOY veteran, having been in the program for about four years.

“I liked it, getting to see the dolphins,” she said. “There were so many, and it was nice weather.”

Sea lions rest on a buoy outside of Newport Beach on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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