ASI Supports Students with Subsidized SCUBA

ASI Supports Students with Subsidized SCUBA

Since 2016, the ASI SCUBA Dive Center has been a place for Cal Poly Pomona (CPP) students to discover the sport of SCUBA, earn international certifications, and travel around the world for dives and conservation initiatives. To reduce financial barriers for CPP students and allow them to access services provided by the program, many SCUBA activities, trips, and certifications are subsidized up to 60 percent for CPP students, making it the only subsidized dive program in California.  

A program like this on a college campus is rare—the ASI SCUBA Dive Center is only one of three educational dive centers in the country, the other two are located in Hawaii and Florida. The ASI SCUBA Dive Center offers both recreational and professional programs, meaning individuals can learn how to SCUBA dive and earn their certification to dive on  their own or become certified to teach other divers. 

Brenda Calderon, Dive Center Supervisor and CPP’s Marine Ecology master’s program student explained, “We offer certification courses that include, at the basic level, Open Water Diver, which is the first certification you need. It is a lifetime certification, and it is good all around the world,” She continued, “If you start here, the possibilities are endless of where you can go diving. We have additional recreational certifications, up to Rescue Diver, and then after that, if students are really interested in continuing their dive education, we have professional training as well. That includes Dive Master, Open Water Diver Instructor, and Emergency First Responder Instructor.” 

Doug Hayes, SCUBA Dive Center Manager, has been diving for nearly 30 years and has completed more than 6,000 dives. He went into detail on how ASI Dive Center programs are performance-based. “We don’t rush anyone through. If they need to do more confined water sessions before going in the open water, we provide those for free.” 

Doug Hayes helping a student put on SCUBA gear at the BRIC pool 

“Something that is unique to us is the teaching philosophy and the way that we structure it,” Calderon said. “It is paced so it is not ‘pass or fail’ and you can try and try again if it didn’t work the first time.”  

She went on to discuss the leadership opportunities within the ASI SCUBA Dive Center. “Something we are working toward is students leading students.” Calderon mentioned that the program is designed to train students to become leaders in the community as well. 

“It is leadership as they learn to SCUBA dive, and there is so much that comes with learning to SCUBA dive,” Calderon stated. “You are hyper-aware in and out of the water just because of all the technicality and everything that you learn. We try to showcase students, what they are learning, and how they are growing.”  

“Students interested in SCUBA should try out Discover SCUBA Diving,” advice Calderon likes to give to those who may be interested in starting SCUBA. “It is just $10 for a two-and-a-half-hour session, where [participants] get to put on all the gear, hop in the pool, and see if they like it. That is the best place to start.” There are ten opportunities to join in on Discover SCUBA Diving this fall semester. Also in the fall semester, there will be trips and certification sessions running through the months of October and November. 

People in SCUBA gear underwater at the BRIC pool at Discover SCUBA diving 

It is notable that you do not need to be a CPP student to join in on SCUBA activities such as local trips and certification courses. Individuals may participate at the ASI SCUBA Dive Center under the following classifications: student, non-student, and non-Bronco Recreational and Intramural Complex (BRIC) member. Hayes explained, “Parents can do it with their students, and outside [community] members can come in if they want to! It is open to faculty, staff, and the outside community,” he said. “The subsidizing rate is a little different for non-students, so our students get the most subsidized price. But even our non-member pricing, is competitive to outside dive shops.” 

Calderon also brought attention to the employment opportunities available to students at the ASI SCUBA Dive Center. “We are currently hiring for Dive Center Assistants and Dive Center Lead Assistants. Those are now open on the ASI employment page,” she explained. “SCUBA has so many components. There is diving, but also the equipment, so if someone is into fixing things, they could be a good fit. We do a lot of outreach as well if you’re more of a people person and you like SCUBA on the side.”  

“Needless to say, there is a lot more within the job,” Calderon explained. She also noted that Dive Center Assistants do not need prior diving experience, and the Lead Assistant does require experience. 

A Dive Instructor leading a class of SCUBA divers at the BRIC pool 

BRIC members can also look forward to the opening of the gear center. The ASI SCUBA Dive Center is opening up its own rental center on campus this fall for those who are certified to check out tanks, wetsuits, gloves, fins, and anything else they need to go diving on their own! 

If going underwater is not for you just yet, the ASI SCUBA Dive Center also offers education outside the water! “We do SCUBA-related programs, so if someone is interested in the ocean and conservation in the ocean, we have more conservation-leaning programs like Divers Against Debris, which is picking up trash on campus,” Calderon explained. “We started this last semester, and it was fun to see divers and non-divers come together.” 

Students cleaning up trash on campus as part of Divers Against Debris 

There are also other SCUBA-related programs including educational sessions to highlight ocean wildlife, conservation tactics, and stories of past SCUBA trips.  

But of all the programs offered by the ASI SCUBA Dive Center, international trips are the most popular and highly sought after by students. “We are the only university dive center program to provide international travel opportunities. We have done this to create a more diverse population to join the SCUBA program,” Hayes said. “We are doing this by reducing the financial and other barriers. We do all we can to reduce barriers.” 

 A student SCUBA diving in the ocean holding up “Shaka” symbol with hands 

“Any time we take a trip, especially our international trips, we do some kind of civic engagement,” explained Hayes. “We help restore and plant corals, we help with turtle restoration at the turtle hospital in Florida. We participated in a Catalina underwater cleanup with Project Aware, so we always make sure we are doing something for the environment as well.” 

International trips are only available to CPP students who are certified divers. Earning a spot on these trips is done lottery-style, and the cost includes everything: food on non-travel days, gear, lodging, and more. Students are also offered the option to pay in installments with no interest. Boats on these trips are rented out by just the ASI SCUBA Dive Center, so CPP’s no substance rules are followed on the trips. 

Two international trips are in the works for this academic year, and locations in the discussion include Australia, Honduras, Bonaire, Curaçao, Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, and the Bahamas. Since international trips require certification, it is encouraged that students get certified as soon as possible if they want a chance to join. 

Hayes, who has lived abroad in Cozumel and Honduras for over a decade and a half explained the importance of international trips. “There is diving on every continent, this is a worldwide activity,” he said. “The reason we want to do international trips is to show people what else is around the world and what everyone else goes through, and that diving is exceptional all around the world.” 

An Orange fish and four divers behind it on a past SCUBA trip 

With everything the ASI SCUBA Dive Center has to offer, there is something for both CPP students and the outside community to participate in as the program grows. To stay in the loop of what SCUBA activities, certifications, and trips are coming up, follow @ASICPP on Twitter and Facebook and @CPPCampusRec on Instagram.