Millennial Leader to Watch: Marine Biologist Inspires Children of Color

Daniell Washington has always loved the ocean. From an early age, the 25-year-old marine biologist knew her life would revolve around water. Which is why she co-founded her own nonprofit in 2008, The Big Blue and You, to teach kids about the importance of ocean conservation and protecting the environment.

“Everything in my life right now is about water,” Washington said with a laugh, “And I love it.”

As one of the few people of color promoting ocean education, Washington is following her passion in the hopes of creating the next generation of environmental stalwarts, and inspiring people –– especially children of color –– to go out and follow whatever dreams they have.

“How many kids live three miles away from the beach and had never ever seen the ocean? That just baffled me, so I wanted to do something about it.”

After graduating in 2008, Washington used the money she won from Roxy clothing brand’s “Follow Your Heart” competition to launch the nonprofit with her mother, Michelle Swaby. The organization is based in the Miami area and educates kids about the ocean by using the arts and getting them engaged in environmental conservation. “[Water] plays a major role in every aspect in our lives, but people still don’t seem to acknowledge it … it’s something taken for granted [by Americans].”

Washington is also a TogetherGreen Fellow; a partnership between the National Audubon Society and Toyota. Her dreams extend beyond her South Florida home as she hopes to motivate people worldwide to learn about the substance that “covers three-quarters of the earth.”

“I definitely consider myself a leader in my community” said Washington. “I like to see myself as an overall leader, for everybody. For all different ethnicities and races.”

Washington also wants her site to encourage, “kids of color to explore the paths out there for them in the sciences.” 

Though it’s hard for her to predict what she’ll do next, she admits she would love to start a travel show to embolden people to explore the world around them. No matter what Washington does, one thing is for certain; she’ll keep trying to get you to love the big blue sea as much as she does.