We Protect Long Island Sound Through Education and Action
SoundWaters is a recognized and trusted organization locally and in the Long Island Sound region. We have sustained relationships built on shared value and trust for 25 years that includes community, school, business, and political leaders. We have been awarded a 4-star rating, the highest possible, from Charity Navigator based on our financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency.
We are committed to ensuring that no child or school will be excluded from our programs due to an inability to pay. Knowledge about, and access to, educational enrichment and the benefits of Long Island Sound are far too limited already for so many in our region. The generosity of our supporters enables our work, whether it’s an education sail aboard the Schooner SoundWaters, summer camp scholarships for children or STEM education at our Coastal Education Center. Overall, one third of the students we teach are from low-income communities and receive full or partial scholarship assistance.
SoundWaters Sets Sail
When he read a series of articles in the Stamford Advocate about the dire condition of Long Island Sound, Len Miller, recognized the plight of the Sound as an opportunity to increase learning and exploration and he set in motion a course of science and stewardship that continues to inspire over 30,000 students per year.
In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught. – Baba Dioum, 1968
In 1990 Len led a small group of friends to purchase a replica of an 18th century Chesapeake Bay sharpie schooner. The 80 foot vessel was refit with education stations on the deck and rechristened “SoundWaters.” The ship, with its six person crew, immediately made an impact as the “floating classroom of Long Island Sound,” sailing with classrooms of students from its home port of Stamford as well as traveling to Old Saybrook, Bridgeport and Greenwich, CT and Mamaroneck, Port Washington, Port Jefferson and Greenport, NY. Sailing from April through October, SoundWaters, introduced 6,000 young people annually to the world of navigation and the science of conservation.
Holly House Reborn. Ten years later, SoundWaters programs had expanded into afterschool and science programs. There was literally no more room on the boat when then-Mayor, Dan Malloy approached SoundWaters with a partnership to renovate Holly House, a city-owned national historic landmark in Cove Island Park and use it as our land-based teaching center. SoundWaters embarked on an ambitious $2 million fundraising campaign and reopened Holly House in 2000 as the Coastal Education Center. The Center not only provided much needed office space, it presented the ideal environment for teaching thousands more students each year. With classroom, aquarium and lab space inside and Long Island Sound and Holly Pond in its backyard, the Coastal Education Center enabled SoundWaters to welcome schools and students 12 months a year. By 2016, on land and on sea, SoundWaters was teaching students from 146 schools in 64 different communities across the Long Island Sound Region. Adding in the sold out, summertime Camp SoundWaters and several after school and vacation programs, SoundWaters’ student reach surpassed 32,000 per year.
School Partnerships Expand. With new program ideas and multi-year federal support, SoundWaters expanded school partnerships and taught more students through rigorous, science-infused programs. Activities ranged from citizen-based research, long-term plankton studies, advanced high school internships and special pre-K immersion programs for students from low income families. SoundWaters became the premier environmental science destination for the region.
Scholarships Increase: As the number of students increased, so too did the number of students and entire schools from underserved communities who could not afford to pay for SoundWaters programs. Loyal and generous donors have allowed SoundWaters to keep pace with the increased scholarship aid and adhere to one of its guiding principles: that no student be turned away from a SoundWaters education for the inability to pay. Today, over 30% of SoundWaters students receive scholarship funding for school and camp programs.
Growth through merger. In 2016, Young Mariners Foundation – a local sailing and youth development group – agreed to merge with SoundWaters. Young Mariners encourages the growth and development of students in teamwork, goal setting, life and citizenship skills, and self-esteem by combining the sport of sailing with after-school educational programs. SoundWaters has integrated these programs and expanded the summer program into the Young Mariners STEM Academy, where over 100 students study, sail and excel at Stamford Harbor each summer
The Future on Stamford Harbor. 2020 finds SoundWaters on the cusp of its next adventure. The successful merger with Young Mariners added an exciting new operating site on Stamford Harbor to SoundWaters’ teaching resources. Currently home to the SoundWaters’ Schooner and summer programs, Boccuzzi Park on Stamford Harbor is the planned site for SoundWaters’ Harbor Center, a waterfront facility that will be dedicated to bringing Stamford Harbor and Long Island Sound back into the lives of the entire community through education and recreation. As part of the campaign to engage the public, SoundWaters has launched HarborFest, an end-of-summer celebration of Stamford’s waterfront that, in year one drew over 5,000 residents to the shores of Long Island Sound: Let’s go to the Harbor!