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A Diversity Scholar’s Open Water Certification

Allyson C. Salazar Sawkins
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD Student
University of California, Santa Cruz
Diversity Scholarship Recipient, 2021


Although I had a lot of fears surrounding diving, as soon as I took my first breaths underwater I felt at ease. My fears around the cold Monterey water, the weight of my gear, and the many things that could go wrong no longer had such a grip on me. I realized the beautiful thing about diving is that once you’re in the water, you’re forced to be fully present in the moment. Not to mention, learning to SCUBA dive in the beautiful waters of Monterey, California was such a thrill. The kelp beds were a marvel and I was fortunate to see so many species on my first ocean dives, such as perch, rockfish, goby, sculpin, sea stars, and moon jellyfish. Through receiving my Open Water certification, I’ve learned why so many people fall in love with SCUBA diving!

I’m honored to have gotten this experience and am so excited for the opportunities that will come from this. I will dive both recreationally and academically; this year I will continue onto my advanced, rescue, and scientific diver certifications so that I can use diving to aid my doctoral research. 

I’d like to thank my wonderful Dive Instructor Charlie Cooper, the owner of dive shop Aqua Safaris in Santa Cruz, California. There were a couple of us who had a lot of fears surrounding diving, but he was so calm and patient with us. I will forever be grateful for how he instilled confidence in us. 

Thank you so much to AAUS for awarding me the 2021 Diversity Scholarship. I hope to be an example for students coming from adverse circumstances. I’m a firm believer that we can overcome adversity to make our dreams a reality. 




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