Community Service Spotlight
Twin Lakes State Beach cleanup

Twin Lakes State Beach cleanup

One of the primary purposes of O’Neill Sea Odyssey is to foster awareness of environmental stewardship and personal responsibility among program participants. This is done by delivering an interactive curriculum that emphasizes the connections between land and sea, and as it is a free program, each participating group is required to complete a service project to earn their trip.

Community service is an integral component of the OSO stewardship model, and we are proud of the work our students have accomplished over the years. To-date, more than 3,000 service projects have been completed, often benefiting a number of our Monterey Bay non-profit organizations.


In June, Nueva Vista Community Resources and The Spot Camp each conducted a beach cleanup at Seabright State Beach and Twin Lakes State Beach, respectively, in partnership with Save Our Shores (SOS). Students were split into teams and instructed to fill out Marine Debris Data cards to track the type and quantity of trash they found. At the end of the activity, trash was separated from recyclable materials and weighed.

Combined, the two student groups collected and removed a total of 17 pounds of trash and 2 1/2 pounds of recyclables and these results were entered into the SOS Cleanup Database where their data can be used to inform public policy and coastal management decisions. How about them apples? Following the cleanups, the groups then discussed different ways to reduce the amount of waste that was found, and steps they could take to reduce their consumption of single-use plastic items at home.

Through it all, the students were happy and eager to learn more about the marine environment and build off the information they learned aboard the Team O'Neill catamaran and in the Sea Odyssey classrooms. They were quick to make connections while working with Save Our Shores and impressed to hear how many individual pieces of trash they found.

Special thanks to the City of Santa Cruz who provided Measure E funding to support this coordinated effort between O'Neill Sea Odyssey and Save Our Shores. In all, seven Measure E classes were served, totaling 170 students. (Photos courtesy of Jasper Lyons and Sophie Holin)

In February, Castroville Elementary School conducted a restoration at Moss Landing State Beach in partnership with Elkhorn Slough Foundation. Kathy Truong's and Julio Alfaro's 5th grade students removed over 200 square feet (four heaping piles) of invasive ice plant to clear the landscape for native plant species and re-establish habitat for wildlife.

Special thanks to The David & Lucile Packard Foundation who provided funding to support Miss Truong's group of 30 students on the Sea Odyssey program, along with the more than 20 other classes served, totaling 635 students. (Photos courtesy of Kathy Truong)

Through the O'Neill Sea Odyssey program, and in conjunction with the various organizations, these Ocean Stewards have enjoyed the beauty and wonder that our coastal marine environment provides while learning to respect and preserve it. On behalf of OSO and the entire Monterey Bay community, we thank them for their efforts, and we thank you for your continued support.

Adam Steckley
Winners of the 2016-2017 Ocean Steward Art Contest
Grand Prize Winner:  Save The Marine Life, by Yoltzin Delgado

Grand Prize Winner:  Save The Marine Life, by Yoltzin Delgado

O’Neill Sea Odyssey (OSO) and its Board of Directors are proud to announce the winners of the 2016-2017 Ocean Steward Art Contest. Yoltzin Delgado (grade 4), of Boulder Creek Elementary in Boulder Creek, CA, is the grand prize winner. Her watercolor and marker artwork titled, "Save the Marine Life," depicts an underwater world of distinctly contrasting views - the direct result of human impact. On one side, we witness the dark and detrimental harm of ocean pollution from both point and non-point sources, as well as a large-scale fishing trawler harvesting from the ocean food chain. On the other side, however, the marine life is thriving in a bright and healthy ecosystem while beach goers remove trash at sunset near wind turbines creating alternative energy. Conveyed beautifully, Yoltzin shows how individual choices and behaviors lead to very different environmental outcomes. As this year's Ocean Steward Art Contest winner, she and her teacher, Reilly McCoy, will each receive family passes for a one-hour public sail aboard the Team O’Neill catamaran.

In honor of Yoltzin Delgado and her award winning piece, O’Neill Sea Odyssey will present an enlarged mounted copy of the artwork to both Boulder Creek Elementary and Leslie & Troy Daniels, who provided funding for Miss McCoy’s class. Three of the four honorable mention winners include Amber Boothby (grade 6) of Scotts Valley Middle School in Scotts Valley, CA, and Maverick Meuller (grade 5) and Nicole Perez (grade 5) of King City Arts Magnet in King City, CA. These five students will all receive accolades as O'Neill Sea Odyssey Ocean Stewards and their artwork will be exhibited in the OSO classrooms. Congratulations to all!

About the Ocean Steward Art Contest

The Ocean Steward Art Contest is an opportunity for students in grades 4-6, who have participated in the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program, to creatively interpret the watershed, marine and/or stewardship themes learned while attending OSO. The contest is held annually and encourages students to further consider the lessons and experiences of the program. Additionally, it is an opportunity for OSO and its Board of Directors to connect with, recognize, and award the stewardship efforts of the students, teachers, schools and communities. You can read more about these efforts happening at King City Arts Magnet in our blog post from May 26 and view the artwork of all our past contest winners here.

Creating art is a powerful means of communicating behaviors and emotions regardless of cultural and/or socio-economic background.
— Adam Steckley
Adam Steckley
Jack O'Neill World Memorial Paddle Out

Image credit:  Howard "Boots" McGhee

"Conversations with Jack were an adventure. I don't think I'll ever know anybody with that level of intellect and that level of joy in conversation, and wanting to understand the world and do better for the world.

It wasn't just the paddle out in Santa Cruz. It was the paddle outs that occurred around the world. He was a worldwide figure. He was an ocean leader. He was a business leader. And that is what happened today. People paid honor to him, they appreciated him, and they felt the love that he felt for them."

- Dan Haifley

Celebration of the Life of Jack O'Neill

The family of Jack O’Neill, O’Neill Wetsuits and O’Neill Surf Shop would like to extend a heartfelt "Thank You", to all who have reached out with thoughts, prayers, sympathy, remembrances, stories and pictures since the passing of legendary waterman Jack O’Neill on Friday, June 2, 2017.

In response, we would like to invite everyone to join in a paddle out and day long celebration of Jack’s life and adventures at Jack’s favorite beach, Pleasure Point, in Santa Cruz County on Sunday, July 9, 2017, starting at 11a.m.

Memorial contributions in support of Jack’s love of the oceans may be made at

O'Neill Building Groundbreaking - Circa 1965 Left to Right:  Port Commissioner Malio Stagnaro (in hat), Port Commissioner Worth Brown (with shovel), Port Commissioners Don Falconer (w/ shovel), Scotchie Sinclair, Editor of the Sentinel, Port Commissioner Al Haber (brim hat), Vern Allen, yacht broker (in light windbreaker), Jack O'Neill (in suit coat).

O'Neill Building Groundbreaking - Circa 1965

Left to Right:  Port Commissioner Malio Stagnaro (in hat), Port Commissioner Worth Brown (with shovel), Port Commissioners Don Falconer (w/ shovel), Scotchie Sinclair, Editor of the Sentinel, Port Commissioner Al Haber (brim hat), Vern Allen, yacht broker (in light windbreaker), Jack O'Neill (in suit coat).

Bert Talcott and Jack O'Neill

Bert Talcott and Jack O'Neill

Jack O'Neill on the land sailor

Jack O'Neill on the land sailor

Jack O'Neill and Harry Hind

Jack O'Neill and Harry Hind

Teacher Spotlight

Katy Scowcroft

"I truly believe in the OSO mission and am grateful to have benefitted from the experience myself, as well as with my class!"

We’ve asked Katy Scowcroft, one of O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s teacher participants and alumna, to share her thoughts about her unique experience with the program as both a previous student and current educator. Here’s what she had to say…

During my first year teaching 5 years ago, my favorite phrase was “When I was in elementary school…” as I shared with my students my own memories growing up in Santa Cruz City Schools. I referred to my experience on the O’Neill Sea Odyssey even more that year, as my 4th grade class at Gault Elementary School eagerly anticipated their first time out in the ocean. I was honored and excited to return to the Sea Odyssey in April 2012 as an educator and past participant; to watch my students enjoy an experience that also meant so much to me.

Growing up in Santa Cruz, I’ve spent hundreds of summer and weekend days at the beach: splashing in the waves, digging giant holes in the sand, and enjoying time with family and friends in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. However, it wasn’t until 6th grade that I ever ventured past the white crashing crest and slimy seaweed scattered upon the shore. In 1996, during the O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s inaugural year, my class of DeLaveaga Dragons walked from school to the yacht harbor to experience an incredible ocean journey. Along with the majority of my classmates, this was my first time on a boat—the first time I’d ever been exposed to the wonders of the vast ocean. Throughout our morning on the Sea Odyssey, the Monterey Bay transformed into a tangible environment—we saw firsthand the ocean life we’d been studying for months, made concrete connections to the effects of pollution when we watched a plastic bag float past a family of sea otters rolling around in the kelp beds, and felt the power of the waves as we clung for dear life on the net in the middle of the catamaran.

I have carried the experiences, memories, and knowledge gained from the O’Neill Sea Odyssey with me for the last twenty-one years. What an impactful experience! I laugh when I recount how I feigned sea-sickness in order to munch on gingersnaps, and every time I’m on West Cliff, I recall what sea otters look like up close. The OSO’s message of ocean conservation has also remained at the forefront of my environmental consciousness. It is due to my experience on the Sea Odyssey that I make a conscious effort to help keep our Monterey Bay clean through small gestures such as picking up trash when I go to the beach, limiting the use of plastic bags, and recycling glass and plastics.

Mirroring our school demographics, 21 out of 24 of my first students were English Language Learners, and almost my entire class qualified for free and reduced lunch. None of my students had ever been on a boat, and while many lived in the Beach Flats neighborhood, the “beach” they referred to was usually the Boardwalk. This was the first time my students were able to see ocean life up close and personal, and just as it did for me, brought our classroom learning to life. The other 4th and 5th grade classes at our school experienced the OSO earlier in the school year; one incredible encounter was even captured in the Santa Cruz Sentinel as visiting whales breached 20 feet from the catamaran.

Photo courtesy of Steve Lawson

Photo courtesy of Steve Lawson

What a gift these trips are to children who have limited opportunities outside of school. The opportunity provided by the O’Neill Sea Odyssey is truly a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience that has a positive impact on every participant. I consider myself extra lucky to add to my memories on the OSO with my own class, watching my students howl with laughter and excitement as they bobbed above the waves, pointed out the sea lions, and waved at the tourists along the wharf.  I even brought my own box of gingersnaps for old times’ sake (although it didn’t do much to help the poor kiddos “feeding the fish” off the back of the boat!) After switching grade levels from 4th grade to 2nd, I often think fondly of my first year teaching. Our incredible ocean adventure on the O’Neill Sea Odyssey stands out as one of my favorite memories and I am filled with gratitude to the donors and everyone in the organization who make it possible for students like mine (and myself!) to experience the full impact of our vast ocean.

What does the ocean mean to you?

To me, the ocean is it’s own world filled with deep unknowns and fascinating surprises. I have lived next to the ocean my entire life yet take it for granted. I know it is always there—I can hear the waves crashing from my studio apartment, hear the bark of sea lions at the wharf, and smell the salty air. I take solace in the tranquil views from West Cliff, and love to witness the power of the waves during an angry storm. I have swum in the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Southern oceans and am awed by how different it is in each location. I am grateful to programs like OSO for promoting ocean conservation and stewardship, and educating students (such as myself) on the interesting marine biology that abounds in our own Monterey Bay.

Photo courtesy of Jasper Lyons

Photo courtesy of Jasper Lyons


Thank you, Katy, for sharing your experience and unique perspective. We are grateful for your support.

Adam Steckley
New Leaf's Envirotoken Giving Program

A BIG THANKS to New Leaf Community Markets' staff who voted OSO into their Envirotoken Giving Program. Through the end of 2017, you now have the ability to support OSO and our 100,000th Student Campaign when you reuse your grocery bags. As a customer, whenever you reuse a grocery bag at either New Leaf market in Capitola or Downtown Santa Cruz, O'Neill Sea Odyssey is eligible to receive your 10¢ Envirotoken donation. Giving back to the community and the ocean, each time you shop.

At the request of longtime customer, Ron Goodman, New Leaf started the Envirotoken program in 1993 with a twofold goal: to support local nonprofits working for the environment and to conserve resources by encouraging reusing. Thank you New Leaf Community Markets, Ron Goodman and all New Leaf patrons. O'Neill Sea Odyssey appreciates your support.



Support O'Neill Sea Odyssey at New Leaf markets in Capitola and Downtown Santa Cruz.

What does the ocean mean to you?

Today at the Live Oak Farmers' Market, Adam, Sophie and Tatiana provided campaign information and O'Neill Sea Odyssey 100% recycled cotton tote bags to attendees who shared their thoughts about what the ocean means to them. It was an absolute treat to hear their answers and witness the emotion and excitement the ocean conjures up. We are grateful to all who took time to stop at our table to participate with a photo and we hope you enjoy your new tote. A special thanks also, to those who made a donation in honor of our 100,000th student.

The ocean is a respite for me when I need to get away from my earthly duties.
— Market participant
Adam Steckley
Donor Spotlight

Theresa Coyle

"What a vision Jack O'Neill had!"

We've asked Theresa Coyle, one of O'Neill Sea Odyssey's long-time supporters, to share her thoughts about her unique connection to, and history with, the OSO program. Here's what she had to say....

In 1996, after 26 years of teaching at the elementary level, I decided to take a half time position for a year. It was that decision that led me to O'Neill Sea Odyssey. Jack O'Neill was launching his new idea of offering an educational program aboard the Team O'Neill catamaran to teach about the importance of taking care of the ocean, and he was looking for an education coordinator to help him establish it.

Fortunately for me, I was chosen for the job and ended up spending the next six years teaching part-time and working part-time with Jack to create what would become an amazing gift to educators and their students - and to the community, as well.

The program started out as a 3 hour, 3 station experience that was offered to K-12 teachers in exchange for a community service project. It involved lessons on Marine Biology, Marine Ecology, and Navigation with instruction in each of the 3 areas on the boat with follow up instruction in the on-shore classroom. After the first year, we determined that it was better suited to the 4th - 6th grade levels (as it addressed several state standards in science and math) and began to fine tune it with that in mind. 

One of the most exciting components of the program was the community service project requirement. We asked teachers to propose a community service project as their "payment" for the trip (which allowed us to participate - as our classroom budgets would not have) and as a result many benefited. The projects included establishing recycling programs at school, beach clean-ups, school and community clean-ups, storm drain stenciling, designing and posting artwork and informational posters around the community and more. A personal favorite was a class that wrote poetry about their experience with the program, created illustrated poetry books, sold them as a fundraiser and then donated the money back to the O'Neill Sea Odyssey program which added to the funds for future classes to be able to take part. A nice full-circle initiative.

Among the many other benefits that the program has provided, is the ripple effect that has been felt throughout the communities. Not only have the participating students taken home important lessons about the ocean and the environment, but their parents and chaperones have too. Along with the nearly 100,000 students served, there are many, many more lives that have been touched by the program. What a vision Jack O'Neill had!

Theresa & Michael Coyle

Theresa & Michael Coyle

My husband, Michael, and I continue to support the program because we believe in it! Not only does it address environmental concerns in an engaging, hands on way, it also targets a young population that has the potential to take these lessons to heart at an early age and spread the word to others. It's important to us to be a part of something that teaches invaluable lessons now and will have an impact on future generations as well.

What does the ocean mean to you?

There is something about the ocean that has always drawn me in. As a young girl, I spent many vacations with my family camping and clamming at Pismo Beach and fishing at Morro Bay, or out in the open ocean, and I just couldn't get enough. I loved being near the water, in the water, near the wildlife, and just loved the smell of "the coast" as we called it. In later years, the beaches near Santa Cruz were a frequent destination with friends and family. When I grew up and moved up to the mountains to start my teaching career, I missed the ocean and always looked for reasons to come back. When a teaching opportunity came up that would bring me back to the coast, I couldn't say yes fast enough. Not only was I able to enjoy the ocean again, I could also share it with my students through the many field trips, lessons, and activities that were ocean related. Now that I'm retired, I enjoy walks near the ocean almost daily, take every opportunity to be out on the water, and continue to appreciate what a treasure the ocean is.

Photo courtesy of Jasper Lyons

Photo courtesy of Jasper Lyons


Thank you, Theresa and Michael! We are grateful for your continued support. OSO couldn’t do it without you.

Please join the Coyle's and others who have contributed in support of our 100,000th student milestone.