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The academy aims to put a dent in dual problems plaguing South Florida: youth violence and drug use, and the steady deterioration of Florida's marine environment. Through our program, students learn a new skill that occupies their time in a constructive way, provides a healthy outlet to relieve stress and strengthen communication skills, boosts their self-confidence and builds stronger, healthier family relationships, greatly improving their chances of resisting the lure of drugs and gang violence. Also, the program ' s strong environmental component makes youth -- tomorrow's boaters and anglers -- more aware of the fragility of Florida' s environment and how they can counteract it, building a new generation of ethical anglers and environmental stewards.
Kids third grade and older learn not just the basics of fishing, like knot-tying, casting, fish biology and boat safety, but also how to repair their rods, nurture a healthy marine environment through catch-and-release, circle hooks and other ethical angling standards, and even how to filet and cook up their catches. Each class also has a strong dose of character-building, family-bonding, leadership opportunities and other life lessons. On-site fishing trips to the pier, lake, shore or by boat are an essential course component that reinforces classroom instruction. Every student is required to sign a pledge to remain drug-free, family participation on field trips is a must to foster stronger family relationships and, when funding is available, each child who meets attendance requirements gets a free rod and reel donated through Fish Florida.
- Richard Brochu
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