Anesti Vega, a Florida Tech student and advocate for aquatics diversity, has been named the 2021 Sea Hero of the Year by Scuba Diving magazine.
He was previously named the magazine’s August Sea Hero, making him eligible for the full-year award, which was announced in December.
A combat veteran, the double major in oceanography and strategic communications was first exposed to scuba when he signed up for a dive certification course as he prepared for a shark diving excursion following his military service. He later found that the experience of scuba diving eased his post-traumatic stress. “It gave me a glimpse of what my normal state could look like, before PTSD,” he told the magazine. “It was an enlightenment of sorts, and I wanted to share it with others.”
He has done just that.
He has certified nearly 200 divers, taught veterans adaptive scuba, led a nonprofit that connects veterans with marine STEM careers, and taught friends to swim so they could get Open Water certified, the magazine reported.
On campus, Vega started the Florida Tech Scuba Club in 2020. He’s served as the club’s president since its launch and has seen interest grow from 32 members to 184.
Vega’s push to broaden diversity and empower communities typically underrepresented in scuba and other aquatic activities will be boosted by the $5,000 award from Seiko Watches USA that comes with the Sea Hero recognition. He plans to use it to seed two annual dive certification scholarships for the next five years at Diversity in Aquatics, the organization where he serves as chair of the scuba council. Vega will oversee the certifications and make his personal gear available to recipients to further lower costs.
“It’s really surreal to be among all the Sea Heroes honored throughout this year doing amazing work in conservation, advocacy and storytelling. I am in awe of each and every one of them and honestly thought I had no chance,” Vega told Florida Tech. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity for the work to be recognized so that scuba diving and the ocean – and especially the study of it – can be a more welcoming and inviting place for everyone who wants to pursue it. I hope to continue making my community proud.”