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This is the eighteenth in our series of stories celebrating the outstanding accomplishments of youth in our community. These inspirational young adults are enriching our lives with their passion and commitment to the betterment of society.

Ella Van Cleave

980xElla is an articulate young woman with a tremendous passion for marine life and their ocean home. What’s remarkable is that Ella has already accomplished so much yet she only graduates from high school next month. When we met her for coffee to interview her for this series, she impressed us as a very bright, dedicated, yet unassuming, young activist, mature well beyond her years.

1959667_762910617052568_1330804789_nElla was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and moved to Victoria when she was in Grade 5. She attended Glenlyon Norfolk School from Grade 5 to Grade 10, then went to Oak Bay High School for Grade 11 and is currently at Glenlyon Norfolk in her graduating year. In addition to being an outstanding student, Ella has distinguished herself as a gifted debater. She has been debating since Grade 7 and has received numerous awards at tournaments. This past year, she and her debating partner won both the Oak Bay High School Golden Gnome and Newman-FISA debating tournaments, with Ella placing as top speaker at the latter.  Other debating successes include those obtained at the Vancouver Island Regional Debate Tournament where she won 3rd place as an individual speaker in 2011 and 2nd place as an individual speaker in 2012 and 2013. At the UBC High School Debate Tournament, Ella placed 3rd as an individual speaker in 2013 and she was part of a debating team that took 3rd place in 2014.

Fabien CousteauThere is no doubt her extensive debating experience has helped Ella become a talented public speaker. She was the keynote speaker at the Glenlyon Norfolk Change Conference at her school in 2011 and has spoken at many conferences since then. Ella was the Co-Chair of the Change conference at her school in 2013. Also in 2013, Ella was Assistant Volunteer Coordinator at the Powershift BC conference, where she gave a workshop on sustainable living.

When Ella heard Fabian Cousteau (grandson of Jacques Cousteau) give a presentation in Victoria, she asked him a question and had a chance to talk to him afterward. This led to Ella being asked to give a TedX talk. At the age of only 14, Ella was a featured speaker at the 2011 TedX event in Victoria. There she identified herself as a “teenage activist” and spoke passionately and knowledgeably about the plight of cetaceans, particularly dolphins and whales who are exploited and kept captive in entertainment facilities. Ella related the extreme stress that these animals are under, from the time of their capture through their life in captivity, which can never replicate their natural habitat. Ella’s impressive TedX presentation can be viewed here.

Mission AquariusElla’s interest in ocean conservation and cetaceans has led her to be involved in some significant projects. Through contact with film makers Richard and Lincoln O’ Barry who created “The Cove”, an Oscar-winning documentary about the dolphin hunt in Japan, Ella was introduced to the Dolphin Project, which is a campaign under the International Marine mammal project at the non-profit Earth Island Institute in Berkeley, California. Ella is a youth ambassador and writer for the Dolphin Project and she plans to create a youth section for the project, with an education curriculum and activism toolbox to get youth engaged in this important issue.

422738_502245793119053_1465953327_nElla started diving when she was in Grade 8 and received her diving certification in Australia. She plans to obtain her Rescue Diver certification and work on a Master Diver’s certificate once she turns 18. She describes herself as a child of nature and she has loved the ocean as long as she can remember. She is passionate about diving and has had the opportunity to do underwater filming. Ella was invited to work with biologist and deep-sea explorer Sylvia Earle and MacGillvray Freeman Films and said “it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done”. She is involved in another film project in 2016 with MacGillvray Freeman Films Inc and the One World One Ocean Campaign that addresses the urgent need to address ocean conservation. Ella was fortunate to be invited to Key Largo, Florida, where she was able to dive to the underwater research lab and do some filming for the project.

Ella has become part of an activist network that she describes as “the most genuine group of people”. She finds that the support of a strong network is critical when you are taking on difficult issues and fighting for what you believe in.

In Aquarius with Sylvia EarleIn the future, Ella sees herself doing scientific research “on the things I care about”, which relate primarily to ocean conservation. Ella has recently been offered an impressive scholarship to attend Quest University near Squamish, BC. She’s thrilled and excited to be joining their liberal arts undergraduate program offered on a 60 acre hilltop campus near Garibaldi Provincial Park. The Quest program includes taking one class at a time, in a very intensive format over a period of 3.5 weeks. Ella’s goal is to enter the field of marine science or oceanography, to further her work in ocean conservation.

Ella’s communication skills are exceptional; her enthusiasm is infectious; her passion for marine conservation is unwavering. It probably comes as little surprise to know that we’re convinced Ella will fulfill her dreams however they may evolve. And one thing is for sure — we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the years to come.

One Comment

  1. Lulu Cohem-
    April 5, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    Very inspiring