Ocean Discovery Institute

Ocean discovery institute 1

Southwest Airlines is committed to making our communities stronger. We believe that our people are our most powerful fuel, and we continue to find ways to make a difference by partnering with organizations whose mission aligns with our values. That is why Southwest Airlines is pleased to partner with Ocean Discovery Institute, who also believes in engaging young people from underserved communities and inspiring them to become part of the next generation of scientific and environmental leaders.


Founded in 1999, Ocean Discovery’s mission is to inspire the next generation of science leaders. Ocean Discovery creates learning experiences for young people traditionally excluded from science due to race, income status, and educational opportunity with the goal that their students will join high-paying fields, break generational poverty, and change the future of science. In 2022, Ocean Discovery was proud to reach over 6,000 students from City Heights, a racially and ethnically diverse, urban, and low-income community in San Diego.

From humble beginnings at a makeshift lab in a bayside kayak closet twenty years ago, children emerged passionate about science and serious about tackling environmental problems. This inspired their program model, providing K-12th grade students into college and career with 100% tuition-free science experiences, mentorship, and growth mindset tools. Today, Ocean Discovery is a national model for preparing individuals from the most underrepresented groups and fastest-growing demographic in the nation to become science leaders. Their alumni are entering science-related careers and becoming high-ranked earners who create financial stability for themselves and their families. Students in our Leadership Programs, 8 out of 10 earn a bachelor’s degree within five years, and 62% of the program alums have attained careers in science-related fields (including diverse areas such as cancer research, aerospace engineering, and environmental planning). Notably, only 1% of their peers nationwide enter science-related fields.

Ocean Discovery is grateful for the continued support of Southwest Airlines. Because of Southwest’s generosity, high school seniors in our Leadership Program received flight vouchers to visit college campuses with their parents and mentors. High school seniors like Uriel had the opportunity to visit his dream school, Columbia University, in New York. During this time Uriel gained perspective on his future life as a college student. Joselin also had the opportunity to tour her dream school, UC Berkeley, where she met up with an Ocean Discovery alum, and envisioned her future as a first-generation college graduate.

Flight vouchers from Southwest are also key to the success of Ocean Discovery’s Science-in-Residence Program. This program enables volunteer scientists from around the country to fly to San Diego, live on-site at the organization’s Living Lab, and spark excitement for science in program participants. Last year, a Southwest flight voucher brought world-renowned physicist Dr. Bililign, to San Diego as part of the Scientist-in-Residence Program. For many students in the program, this was their first opportunity to interact with a real scientist, and Bililign’s research in the area of air pollution was inspiring.

Lastly, Southwest Airlines has been the title sponsor for Ocean Discovery’s BubbleUp! Gala, for many years – supporting the organization in its fundraising efforts and enusring 100% tuition-free programs. This year, the BubbleUp! Gala will be on May 21st.

As a result of the continued belief and investment of donors such as Southwest Airlines, Ocean Discovery has developed world-class programming and empowered students to break generational poverty and change the face of science.


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Kamran Saeed