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African American Scholar Program

The program awards funds to students pursuing studies related to careers in the aquarium field and engages them in the Aquarium’s work through initiatives and events

A black mask-wearing student with glasses gazes upward in the Aquarium

Andrew Reitsma / Aquarium of the Pacific

Applications for the 2023 African American Scholar Program will be available in the fall

The program awards funds to support African American students who demonstrate a commitment to studies related to careers in the aquarium field, including ocean education, animal husbandry, water quality, building maintenance or facilities, microbiology, and business management. Through this program, the Aquarium hopes to bring meaningful opportunities in the marine sciences to African American students and to bring diverse minds to solving the issues facing our planet and its inhabitants.

“The Aquarium of the Pacific is committed to creating pathways for African American students to pursue careers in our field, and it has been very gratifying for us to collaborate with the scholars from this program as they engage in the Aquarium’s work. This has included developing new initiatives and serving as a platform for the scholars to connect with other scientists and the next generation of students,” said Anthony Brown, chief financial officer at the Aquarium of the Pacific

In addition to receiving scholarship funds through this program, the recipients have been invited to participate in various Aquarium programs, including writing for its member magazine, serving as judges in an environmental film festival for high school students, and participating in a symposium to strengthen their connection to the Aquarium. At the symposium this fall, the scholars will have more opportunities to meet with Aquarium staff members, hear guest scientists speak about their careers, and connect with high school students from the Long Beach Unified School District.

This program is possible thanks to funding from individuals and corporate supporters, including Aquarium Board members, staff members, The Ahmanson Foundation, The Boeing Company, and Poms & Associates.

The public is also invited to support the Aquarium’s African American Scholar program. Donations will be matched by an anonymous $10,000 to the fund and can be made by visiting

Program requirements and eligibility:

Applicant must register an account via the application portal and submit the required materials prior to the deadline. Applications may be submitted here.

Required Materials

  1. Proof of application, acceptance, or enrollment in an accredited university, community college, or trade school with field of study related to aquarium fields listed above.
    • For graduating high school seniors, proof of acceptance or enrollment is required before initial fund disbursement.
  2. Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  3. Two letters of recommendation from professional(s) and/or instructor(s) not affiliated with the Aquarium of the Pacific.
    • Letters of recommendation may also be uploaded directly by those recommending instead of being uploaded with the rest of the application. Details in application.
  4. African American Scholar Essay Topic Requirements.
    • 500-word essay that includes the following:
      • Tell us your area of study. Identify where you are in your education studies (designated year/units earned etc.). Describe what inspired you to pursue this path.
      • Tell us about your long-term professional goals. Describe how you believe they relate to the aquarium field.
      • Tell us what impact this award would have on your educational career.
      • Tell us about any other interests you have (this can include hobbies, group affiliations, or any community engagements you may have participated in up to this point).

Application Information

  • The scholarship is available to residents of California of any age with African American heritage as long as they meet the proof of acceptance or enrollment as listed above. Aquarium of the Pacific paid employees, Board members, and their immediate families are not eligible. Volunteers and their immediate families are eligible to apply.
  • Award recipients will be selected by a committee made of Aquarium staff and members of the community. Recipients will be notified prior to the public announcement at the Aquarium’s annual African American Festival.
  • Awards will be paid out in two incremental installments (which will be communicated during the time of award notification). The recipients will also be invited to the Aquarium to participate in presentations, meetings, and other activities during the year.
  • The scholar committee will determine the number of recipients each year. If you have questions regarding the application or eligibility requirements, please email AfricanAmericanScholar@LBAOP.ORG.

Committee Members

Ryan Ashton
Vice President of Development, Aquarium of the Pacific
Anthony Brown
COO/CFO, Wildwood School
Sean Devereaux
Executive Director, Leadership Long Beach
Keasha Dumas Heath
Executive Director, The Museum of African American Art
Alyssa Pacaut
Director of Membership, Aquarium of the Pacific
Steve Young
Principal, Keesal,Young, and Logan and Aquarium Board director

Committee Advisor

Naomi Rainey
President, Long Beach NAACP