July 18, 2007
ORLANDO, Fla. - It's no secret that Kim Cupini has a passion for water. As an assistant coach with the UCF women's rowing team, she spends a good chunk of her day during the academic year at the Knights' training site on Lake Pickett. Even in the summer, she finds time to volunteer with Aquatic Adventures Science Education Foundation, a San Diego, Calif.-based non-profit group that teaches underprivileged youth about marine and environmental science.
"As coaches, we get so busy in our daily lives that we don't have the time to volunteer as much as we would like," said Cupini. "Aquatic Adventures allows me the opportunity to give back."
Cupini began working with the organization while she was an undergraduate studying environmental science at the University of San Diego. Initially recruited for her athletic skills, she taught swimming, snorkeling and other water sports before putting her marine science knowledge to use. She taught in the program for four years, including spending six weeks during the summer of 2004 in Baja California, Mexico.
Cupini has returned to the West Coast two of the last three summers, the only exception being 2005 when she made the move from USD to UCF. Typically, Kim spends her week-long with Aquatic Adventures and the Bahia program in Bahia de los Angles, Mexico, a fishing village on the Sea of Cortez. In the past, she has joined the project leaders and high schoolers in various programs, including wetlands education and sea turtle research. The instructors also take the students snorkeling in the bay, opening their eyes to an underwater world few have seen growing up in San Diego.
"The Bahia is like no other and fortunately, has not yet been destroyed by human impact. Environmentalists are currently fighting to protect the bay. As recently as this past May, Bahia de los Angeles was nationally recognized as a Biosphere Reserve, giving the plants and animals the opportunity to thrive," said Cupini. "These students will probably see more marine life in the five-week program than in the rest of their lives. The program is about empowering them to protect the environment and educate others in their communities."
Unfortunately, Cupini's schedule this summer wouldn't allow her to spend time with the students. Instead, she helped set-up for their eventual arrival, but she still feels satisfied with the work she did accomplish.
"I think many times people are willing to volunteer and donate their time for other people," said Cupini. "However, the environment is often gets overlooked. I am happy to do my part to champion the cause."
Cupini has also influenced the UCF rowing team's dedication to volunteerism. During the 2005-06 season, the squad earned the athletics department's community service award. This past year, the Knights put together 40 care packages for military serving in Iraq.
"Whatever we can do to help is going to make the difference," said Cupini. "I try to pass that message on to our student-athletes and encourage them to give back through their own community service."