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Against the odds

There are approximately 4000 people that live in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. The town, a 40-minute drive south of Jackson, Mississippi, is a quaint community that boasts a Walmart a few restaurants.

So when the Class Dismissed Podcast learned that a science teacher was developing a scuba diving curriculum for her students at Hazlehurst High School, we had to learn more.

A while back, Veronica Wylie got the idea to earn a scuba diving certification to complete research with Diving With A Purpose, a nonprofit that partners with the National Association of Black Scuba Divers to protect, document, and interpret African slave trade shipwrecks.

The Challenge

This idea is ambitious for any teacher, even those that live nearby the sea. But Hazlehurst has one swimming pool and is nearly a three-hour drive to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And it’s even further from the more transparent waters the Florida panhandle offers.

Veronica says that her ultimate goal is to “give students a chance to experience science, rather than just memorize it.” For most of her students, this curriculum will be the first time they have traveled outside of the state of Mississippi. She’ll create coursework inspired by her students’ dives, including a lab manual and discovery activities that will guide student-research efforts and encourage them to think critically both inside the classroom and out.

But Veronica says she’s also driven by something else.

“I’m always a fan of breaking stereotypes, and there’s that big stereotype that black people don’t swim. And further, that black woman don’t swim,” says Veronica. “The more of us that go out and try to break these [stereotypes]. We can kind of change the narrative for the people that come behind us.”

So how is Veronica going to pull off this ambitious project? Well, she has some help from Fund For Teachers and a lot of determination. She shares the details in Episode 202 of the Class Dismissed. You can listen to the latest episode of Class Dismissed on your favorite podcast app or iTunes.


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