Chakala Hill, third from left, helps with oyster reef monitoring.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation’s Wrightsville Beach office had some extra help with its weekly Touch Tank Tuesday and other education programs this summer.

Chakala Hill, a rising junior at New Hanover High School, spent the summer working at the federation as an education specialist through the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence’s VOYAGE Summer Employment Program. She said she learned about the program through a friend.

BRC’s VOYAGE Initiative, which stands for Vision, Opportunity, Youth leadership, Advocacy, Guidance and Empowerment, aims to provide services and opportunities for students and families who live in the Youth Enrichment Zone (YEZ). The YEZ is a 140-acre area in the north side of downtown Wilmington that has historically faced high crime and poverty rates.

The federation has been able to expand its programming with BRC because of a grant from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board. In addition to serving as a host employment site this summer, it also worked with other BRC students through the Summer Bridge Program.

The Summer Employment Program lasts eight weeks and provides in-depth job training for rising 10th through 12th-graders.

“My experience there was amazing,” Hill said. “I picked up on a lot of skills like using my time wisely.”

After a week-long orientation, students are placed at their job sites, where they work for 24 hours each week, Monday through Thursday, for seven weeks. Students are paid during this time.

Hill is a rising junior in high school.

“Chakala was a great help with our education programs. She easily engaged people from all backgrounds in our programs on coastal habitats and water quality. She was also a wonderful mentor to the students in the BRC’s Summer Bridge Program who participated in our Creek Steward Education Program,” said Ted Wilgis, coastal education coordinator at the Wrightsville Beach office. “We are grateful that the BRC enabled us to be a host site this year, and for the funding from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board that helped to make this possible.”

Hill helped with set-up for Touch Tank Tuesday, including collecting marine life from the marsh. She said Touch Tank Tuesday has been her favorite part about working with the federation because she gets to meet new people and see the people who come by every week.

Prior to working for the federation, she said she didn’t know much about coastal education and conservation.

“I didn’t really know much about it, but every day I’m learning different things, from marine debris to runoff and how it affects our rivers and oceans,” she said.

Hill said she enjoyed teaching children about the ocean and water quality, as well as spending time in the field while collecting wildlife for Touch Tank Tuesday and planting marsh grasses.

Toward the end of her time with the federation, she attended the annual Pelican Awards event in Morehead City.

“All the programs and the meeting new children kept me on my toes all the time,” she said. “This was the best experience I’ve ever been a part of and I don’t regret picking this organization as my job site.”