Students who dream of exploring the underwater world have the chance to become certified scuba divers at GC’s Wellness Center pool. Scott Stefano, who has over 25 years of scuba diving experience, prepares students for diving in basic and advanced classes.
“The earth is 70% water, and only a part of it has been explored, so it’s just a different world down there,” Stefano said. “Anybody that has any desire to go see it, they [need] to have these skills so that they can go do it safely.”
Students in the basic scuba diving class attend once a week for four hours, when Stefano teaches everything from physics and physiology to diving techniques and equipment management. First, students must begin in the classroom to learn theory and safety before stepping into the pool.
“It’s a slow process,” said senior Josh Pharr, a biology major. “We would watch a lot of videos of people scuba diving, and we did swim tests beforehand just to make sure we’re comfortable in the water.”
In the beginning, not all students who take the course are comfortable with scuba diving.
“Water is an uncharted territory for me,” Pharr said. “Just the idea of strapping on all that gear and trusting something to give me oxygen while I’m underwater was very scary to me.”
However, Stefano’s classes offer a significant amount of experience to ease beginners into the water. Students get 12 to 16 hours in the pool and practice skills like breathing, ascending and descending, clearing their masks and recovering regulators. Additionally, students learn how to avoid dangerous situations.
“When you know what to do in the event of an emergency, then it makes your time underwater more valuable,” Stefano said.
While the course does not count towards students’ majors, those who certify will be able to scuba dive anywhere in the world for a lifetime.
Students finish after completing dives in Florida at Devil’s Den and the Blue Grotto. This summer, Stefano will also be taking students on a six-day trip to earn an advanced diving certification in the Florida Keys.
“It’s like a gateway to another world that you’ll never be able to see otherwise,” said advanced diver Jake Einig. “You could see it in a picture, but it’s really not even close.”
Nash Sultan, an international student from Pakistan, said he wanted to take a class he would enjoy during his final semester at GC. Once he gains his certification, he will be able to access diving centers back at home.
“This is not a class you have to take,” Sultan said. “Everyone is in there because they enjoy it and wanted to learn how to dive.”
Today, oceans and waterways are the Earth’s final frontier. Ecosystems, vibrant coral reefs, shipwrecks and ancient ruins lay hidden beneath the water’s surface. For Stefano, he gets to do what he loves while opening a whole new world for GC students to discover.
“My primary goal is for everybody to have a lot of fun,” Stefano said. “But it’s also to teach them how to dive and how to dive safely, so they can go out and enjoy the sport on their own.”