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New vocational program helps minorities become SCUBA divers


Thriving in the ‘blue economy’

Shannon Brailey knows she’s swimming in new territory. The African-American woman recently completed Entrepreneur Educational Center Inc.’s (EECI) vocational training program that certified her as a scuba diver. Now, she can pursue a professional career in the “blue economy.”

“My mother is living vicariously through me,” joked Brailey, whose mother founded the program. “You need tough skin because it is a  male-dominated field. You don’t hear about a lot of Black women divers or Black women swimming. I’m doing the training for the culture. I’m doing it for the women who think they can’t push through fear. When I’m down there in the ocean, I’m at complete serenity and peace and become one with nature,” added Brailey.

EECI provided all the students’ equipment and transportation to ocean sites. The program attracted a diverse group of men and women who were already at home with SoCal’s unique sand and surf but hadn’t realized they could turn their passion into a career. 

“I’ve been in the EECI program for a few months,” said Kalisto Hercules. “My passion for the ocean started in high school. I was on the swim team. I swam in relays. It was great. And then I started surfing. But underneath the ocean is really great. I’m glad I got to be a part of this program,” added Hercules.

According to, approximately 85% of all scuba divers are men. White scuba divers make up 62% of the trade. Comparatively, 18.1% of scuba divers are Hispanic, and 9.7% are African-American.

EECI is a nonprofit that promotes education and empowerment, leveling the playing field in various vocations. By offering a free vocational training program – with equipment - to women, Latinos, and African-American professionals in South Los Angeles County’s 2nd and 4th Districts, EECI is creating a pipeline of qualified minorities to fill jobs in the blue economy – rescue, underwater welding, and commercial diving for the Port of Los Angeles and for green companies such as AltaSea (www

“The EECI Vocational Scuba Diving Training will enhance diversity in the maritime industries where minorities are underrepresented,”  said Barbara Stanton, the Founder and Executive Director of EECI. “We have been providing vocational training to minorities for over 30 years with an eye on untraditional industries for minority employment,” she said, adding that the program is such a success, it will resume in 2024. 

Dive Master Specialist Gerald Durant facilitated the training. Durant is a member of the L.A. City Fire Department and President of the Los Angeles City Stentorians, the Association of African-Americans in the Fire Service. 

“The Los Angeles City Stentorians collaboration with EECI has given me the opportunity to complete my social contract with my community,” said Durant.”

Those who completed the Instruction and Open Water Diving and are now certified include:  David Bland, Corbin Dane Pitts, Shannon Brailey, Keith Lesley, Rachel Rhee, and Janice Hyllengren and Kalisto Hercules. These adventurous individuals dedicated 100 hours of instruction and training, including diving off the coast of Catalina. 

The pilot program is scheduled to accept applications in January 2024. All training and equipment will be provided at no cost to those accepted. For more information, visit