Nov 04, 2021
In this month of November we are grateful for people and organizations that give back to the community even in challenging times and circumstances.
Nicholas explains; “The devastation of Hurricane Frances in 2004 left the home where my brother and I were born – the only home we have ever known – unrecognizable and uninhabitable. My family of eight suddenly had to move around for two years with few possessions until our home was reconstructed.” During this difficult time the Metropulos family was invited to stay at a farm in Nassau, Bahamas where they “develop a passion for the aquatic ecosystems that surround us.”
Turning a negative experience into a positive one upon their return to the United States, Nicholas and his older brother, Lucas realized that “we possessed the tools to improve the lives of others while positively impacting the environment. Thus, the Marine Education Initiative was born. The organization began with $500, six fishing rods, and a desire to make a difference. Our first program consisted of 15 young students in Boca Raton. After 14 years of successful operation, Marine Education Initiative has educated over 2,500 students in 8 cities and 3 distinct countries.”
But it’s also passion and the enjoyment of nature that propels Nicholas to dedicate his lis life to this cause “from my immersive summer in the Bahamas to my high school marine science course to multiple years free-diving, I knew that I needed to do something to ensure that our aquatic environments stay pristine or help regain what was lost due to a lack of environmental education within coastal communities. Oftentimes people ask me why I bother protecting these ecosystems and how I can make a substantial difference being so young. My response to them is that it is not just me behind this cause, and young people can make a substantial difference in the world if they band together.” It’s all about making a difference.
Nicholas is not motivated by financial gains he explains “ I had the opportunity to take a well-paying job at a company in Boston, but after much contemplation I realized that I would have a much greater and more meaningful impact educating these bright students than working at a corporate job for a large firm.” Nicholas prioritizes giving back to the community and making our environment a little bit better.
Education is key, as Nicholas explains “Our organization is tackling the lack of environmental
education within school systems by offering our Responsible Angling Education Program as an
extracurricular program at local after school centers throughout South Florida and the
Caribbean. This initiative consists of an 8 - 30 week environmental STEM curriculum which
focuses on the importance of marine conservation and the consequences of not protecting our
aquatic ecosystems. In addition, we use responsible angling as a mechanism to educate our
students to follow local fishing laws and regulations.”
Nicholas is grateful that other Marine educational programs exist, yet he notes: There are multiple organizations that educate the youth about marine conservation; however, our approach is what separates us from the rest. Our immersive after-school curriculum coupled
with the sport of fishing makes our efforts truly unique. We use fishing as a method to keep our
students engaged in marine science. For example, students do not want to go to an after-school
program that has the same settings as a classroom. Thus, we incorporate group activities
centered in marine conservation as well as tying in certain aspects of fishing such as knot tying,
casting a fishing rod, the anatomy of a fish, etc. By doing so, our students are more engaged in
the program and take these activities seriously. Furthermore, the majority of our student’s
families are sustenance fishermen and women, and the students go on to educate and
advocate for responsible angling methods as well as preserving our marine ecosystems to their
parents and peers...By inspiring and empowering our young students to take action in their communities, we can create a movement for change centered on preserving our marine and freshwater ecosystems”
This is indeed a noble and a much needed initiative, unfortunately all of this requires financial backing from donors, Nicholas adds “ One of the most challenging obstacles was when I began searching for funding to support our initial programs.” The organization has 501c3 status but even with that donations do not come easily.
Boca Bearings has and will continue to support in any way possible these types of initiatives and efforts. Nicholas states, “ I have heard about Boca Bearings for years growing up in Boca Raton; however, it recently came to my attention that Boca Bearings also does community outreach. I figured it would be a great way to collaborate by working together for one of our programs involving youth education. This program Nicholas tells us is very involved and somewhat large, “We regularly have groups from local schools and after school centers that come to our Aquaponics center to learn about how we grow our produce and raise our fish. Boca Bearings would have the opportunity to help educate over 25 local students about the importance of sustainable agriculture. We also have weekly harvests at our Aquaponics Center every Saturday from 9:30am - 11am to harvest fresh produce to be delivered to local soup kitchens. We provide over 700 meals every week.” It’s important to note that everyone, not just the Boca Bearings team is invited to support this cause in any way they see fit. Anyone interested in helping this non-profit should reach out to Nicholas.
As a true passionate leader Nicholas is never discouraged by the financial hardships the opposite is true. He has big plans for the future, he explains “ By 2023, we plan to expand our current Aquaponics Center to a 15,000 sq foot farm to produce over 500,000 meals annually. Additionally, we plan to continue expanding our Responsible Angling Education Programs throughout South Florida and the Caribbean. By 2025, we expect to have educated over 5,000 socio-economically disadvantaged students through our Responsible Angling Education Programs.”
Boca Bearings is a community company and we plan to continue to support Nicholas’s non-profit in any way we can.
We are grateful to have partnerships with people and organizations that give back. We indeed feel blessed.