PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY YOU SHOULD KNOW: Daniell Washington– Earth Activist
Who are you?
My name is Daniell Washington but most people know me as Danni. I’m 23 years old…but will be 24 at the end of December. With Jamaican and Bahamian heritage, I have always been deeply rooted in my faith in God, power of family support and surrounding myself with positive people. As a South Florida native, it was hard to resist the alluring dynamics of our unique marine and terrestrial ecosystems. My love and passion for nature was ignited at six years old and has continued to be a major driving force in my life to this day. I gained countless experience in Florida’s unique ecosystems while attending the Marine Science Magnet program at South Broward High School in Hollywood. By the conclusion of my senior year, I traveled to False Bay, South Africa for fifteen days to study the predation patterns of the Great White Shark on Cape Fur Seals with a few other specially selected classmates. In the fall of 2004, I began my studies at the University of Miami (Double Major in Marine Science and Biology) and I was determined to dedicate my studies, free time and my creative energies to become a spokesperson for the ocean. Throughout my time at the University of Miami, I served as a team leader in the South Florida Student Shark Program (SFSSP) which is a collaborative, multidisciplinary research and education program geared toward encouraging high school, college undergraduate and graduate students to learn about the study and conservation of Floridian shark species, mangrove fish habitat and the Florida watershed. In addition, I served on the executive board of the UM Marine Mammal Stranding Team that actively participated in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine mammals that stranded along the coastline of South Florida. My ceaseless adoration for learning and exploration has helped provide incredible opportunities to experience the natural world at its best.
Soon after graduating from UM in August of 2008, I entered the ROXY ‘Follow Your Heart’ competition presented by Schick® Quattro for Women® a contest driven by the ‘Follow Your Heart Tour’ a 12-location tour intended to inspire girls to go after their dreams. Little did I know that my 3-minute video would melt the hearts and impact the panel of judges to the tune of $10,000 – enabling me to follow my heart! Soon after receiving this award money, I founded the Big Blue & You Foundation (www.thebigblueandyou.org) which is an organization dedicated to inspiring today’s youth to become stewards of our planet through service, leadership, visual arts and media. Simultaneously, I was approached by a company named Untamed Science (www.untamedscience.com/about) to serve as one of their on-camera hosts for an educational film series for the classroom through Pearson Publishing. The high school BioAdventure series is currently in classrooms and several other series will be released in the near future.
What do you do in real life?
Currently, I’m serving as the Founder/CEO of the Big Blue & You Foundation (www.thebigblueandyou.org), which organizes and implements several different programs for youth in South Florida. My mother, Michelle Swaby, is currently our executive director and we make a fabulous team. The most recent program is called the One Water Workshop, which is an interdisciplinary workshop that educates high school students (9th-12th grade) on the principles of filmmaking while inspiring them to become advocates of the environment. The concept of this workshop was created by Patrick de Bokay who is the CEO of the Miami World Cinema Center which is the first non-profit film studio. MWCC and The Big Blue & You have partnered to conduct this workshop in high schools in Miami-Dade and Broward County in association with the University of Miami Knight Center for International Media – ‘One Water Project’. Since March of this year, we have accomplished 5 separate workshops with 45 students who created 14 Public Service Announcements about water conservation issues relevant to our community.
I still work with Untamed Science and have gained skills in script writing, filming, production logisitics and editing. I’m also a naturalist at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Nature Center on Key Biscayne. Being able to enjoy the mangrove forrests, seagrass beds along with other ecology along the coast and sharing it with hundreds of students every week is a blessing and I will continue to work there as long as possible.
Why should we care?
This blue planet belongs to all of us. It is our home and life source. Over 70% of Earth’s surface is covered in water and 70% of our bodies are made of water…you would think that would be an obvious indicator as to why we need to protect the natural systems on this planet. But for those who cannot correlate the previous statement, its very simple…no water, no life.
What excites you most about what you do?
Knowing that I have the ability and opportunity to leave this world a brighter place than it was before.
What inspires you?
The indescribable glow that lights up a child’s face when they realize discover something new about the natural world and want to protect it. I see it almost everyday when I’m working at the Biscayne Nature Center. Even on the most difficult days, this keeps me motivated.
Where have you been to in the world?
Jamaica, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Peru and all over the United States.
How would you describe your personal style?
A cross between Bohemian and modern. I like to keep it simple yet chic. I love fashion and wearing things that are comfortable and functional.
What do you do now, that you did not do 5 years ago?
The power of collaboration…working together with people who believe the same vision has limitless power. It will be the force that will solve our biggest global issues. This is especially true when you empower young people from elementary to high school to take on these challenges and use their fresh minds to come up with creative solutions. The One Water Workshop is a perfect example of this kind of collaboration where non-profit agencies, academic institutions and young people work together to spread a unified message about why water is precious and needs to be protected.
What dream have you had that you have accomplished?
Becoming a marine biologist and having the opportunity to see my absolute favorite animals in the wild (orcas – killer whales) in Puget Sound, Washington with Untamed Science.
If you had to move to a deserted island what 2 items would you take?
A machete and water filter
Something new that you have just discovered about yourself?
I love filmmaking! From the initial brainstorming phase to the final stages of editing, I’m interested in every step that produces moving images. It’s a tool that can be used to communicate beyond borders and languages.
What are your guilty pleasures?
Cuban guava and cheese pastelitos
One luxury that you cannot live without?
An apple macbook
Three Words to describe you?
Vibrant, determined and soulful