Story written by Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota.

SARASOTA, FL (June 19–, 2019) – Seven outstanding teens from Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County were selected to participate in the Ocean Guardians Program at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium this summer. After successfully completing a competitive application and panel interview process, the following Boys & Girls Clubs members were accepted into this 9-week program:

  • Lei’Asha Battle, junior at Riverview High School;
  • Jordan Blake, a junior at Sarasota High School;
  • Gabriel Burger, a sophomore at North Port High School;
  • Angelo Gutierrez, a senior at Sarasota Military Academy;
  • Desmen Lee, a sophomore at Booker High School;
  • Woodrow Stewart, a junior at Suncoast Polytechnical High School; and
  • Cooper Zigmond, a junior at Sarasota Military Academy.

As Ocean Guardians, the teens will work side-by-side with Mote professionals to gain real-world experience and practice valuable job skills such as communication, public speaking, collaboration and time management while learning about the world’s oceans, exploring careers in marine science and ocean conservation and earning either a stipend or volunteer hours.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Mote and offer this unique opportunity to Boys & Girls Clubs members,” said Suriya Khong, Director of Teen Outreach. “This program will encourage these Club members to become environmental stewards through research, education and guidance from a team of renowned professionals.

The students will attend bi-weekly meetings, volunteer with Mote’s Community Engagement Outreach Team and participate in two excursion days in Sarasota Bay. The teens will also work on a collaborative, self-guided project focused on a chosen topic in marine science throughout the summer and unveil their work at Shark Days at Mote on August 10.

“Mote is looking forward to this new partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and the opportunity to expand our efforts to engage local youth in marine conservation,” said Aly Busse, Associate Vice President for Education at Mote Marine Laboratory. “This program will provide an environment for teens to develop critical soft skills needed for their future careers.

Learn more about programs for teens at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County at

ABOUT BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF SARASOTA COUNTY: Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County has been a leading youth-serving organization in Sarasota County and its surrounding area since 1970 and provides enriching after-school and summer programs to thousands of youth, ages 6 to 18, in Sarasota, Venice, North Port and Arcadia. The organization’s mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need services the most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. The programs are designed to empower youth to excel in school, become leaders, adopt healthy habits and create plans for success after high school graduation. For more information, visit or call 941-366-3911.

ABOUT MOTE MARINE LABORATORY & AQUARIUM: Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is an independent, nonprofit, 501(c)3 research institution founded in 1955. Mote began and flourished through the passion of a single researcher, Dr. Eugenie Clark, her partnership with the community and philanthropic support, first of the Vanderbilt family and later of the William R. Mote family. Today, Mote is based in Sarasota, Florida, with six campuses stretching from Sarasota to the Florida Keys. Mote has more than 20 world-class research programs studying oceans locally to internationally, with an emphasis on conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing the Lab’s research is Mote Aquarium, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at