FLORIDA KEYS — The United Way of Collier and the Keys has awarded a series of “Creating the Next Generation of Reef Stewards” marine science education grants throughout Monroe County, with a focus on expanding opportunities and education for students in marine science and conservation.

UWCK’s five-year commitment will provide $180,000 to schools and educational facilities throughout the Keys. This year, over $23,000 has been awarded as part of the grant program, with funds providing educational experiences and an expansion of resources to seven schools as well as three marine science nonprofit organizations.

“These grants will open a whole new world of marine exploration to our students,” Monroe County School Board Chair John Dick said. “These types of grants help introduce the marine sciences to our kids and can foster a lifelong passion in conservation and sustainability for the environment that is the lifeblood of the Keys.”

The seven local schools funded include Coral Shores High School, Ocean Studies Charter School, the Basilica School, Grace Lutheran School, Sigsbee Charter School, Treasure Village Montessori Charter School and Sugarloaf School. In addition to the schools, three educational facilities have also been awarded grants. Reef Relief, Mote Marine Lab and REEF will use the funds to expand current hands-on programs for students and to assist teachers with in-class resources.

“These grants supporting visits to the Everglades, Dry Tortugas field trips, restoration at Carysfort reef and more hands-on opportunities will make such an impact on our students,” United Way of Collier and the Keys Board Vice Chair Maria Jones said.

For more information on the grants, visit keysunitedway.org.