Nine students from Santa Monica High School’s Team Marine were presented with the Ocean Hero Award in Sacramento April 6th for their many contributions toward protecting the local marine environment.

Team Marine members traveled to the State Capitol for Ocean Day, when they met with various assembly members, senators, and staff to offer support for different bills that would reduce plastic marine debris and curb carbon dioxide emissions.

The students also encouraged state officials to establish a comprehensive network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that follow the scientific guidelines and draft new legislation that would make environmental sustainability a core subject in K-12 grade levels.

A Team Marine spokesman said the students also had a chance to lobby alongside various environmental organizations, including Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay.

Following the day’s activities, Team Marine members attended a formal reception with numerous state officials and ocean advocates where they were given an Ocean Hero Award by a California steering committee composed of CalCoast, Environment California, Heal the Bay, the NRDC, Ocean Conservancy, San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider Foundation.

“Being on Team Marine and receiving this prestigious award has made me realize that this generation of youth may have the gift that can change the world,” said team member Jacob Hassett.

Lester Snow, secretary for Natural Resources, welcomed the students at the event, and Mike Chrisman, a director for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and former secretary for Natural Resources, presented the award to the students for their environmental contributions.

“For both the students and mentors, the experience was a crash-course in how state government operates, and we all learned so much,” Team Marine Coach Benjamin Kay said. “The students were very well received by all state officials, and it reinforced the importance of people voicing their opinions to their representatives.”