Generosity Refreshes Scuba Program



“God orchestrated the entire process for this year’s scuba course, bringing different people together to create a stronger program,” says Judy Sloan, Ph.D., dean of the School of Health and Kinesiology at Southern Adventist University.

Bo Smith, ’88 alum and new instructor for the class, remembers the class being offered when he was a student more than 35 years ago. As soon as he heard that the adjunct position was open, he expressed interest in teaching. While Smith works full-time in the IT field, he has volunteered as a scuba diver at Chattanooga’s downtown Tennessee Aquarium for 17 years and holds a number of professional certifications.

Smith quickly finalized his Dive Master and Instructor certifications and was hired soon after. A vital partner in his certification process was Malu Hammans, who owns and operates Choo Choo Diving & Aquatic Center in Chattanooga less than 10 miles from the university’s campus. Hammans helped him streamline the process of gaining the necessary credentials and also remained involved once Smith’s first class was up and running.

“The support from Choo Choo Diving – prioritizing my certifications and providing air fills and top-notch customer assistance to the university – has been crucial to our program’s continued success. At every point that team has stepped up for Southern,” Smith says. Early in the course, he took the students on a field trip to the center so they could experience the exceptional service firsthand. Gear was specially packaged and offered at a reduced rate to help make basic equipment requirements for the class affordable.

One hurdle remained before the class could begin. “Southern’s scuba equipment was quite dated, meaning replacement parts would be nearly impossible to find, and some gear needed to be replaced before the class could start,” Smith explains. Searching for a solution, he spent time in prayer and asked God to provide a path forward.
Within days, an anonymous donor with no connection to Smith offered a $10,000 gift specifically for the university’s scuba program. It was used to buy 10 new sets of scuba gear. “Those funds were the solution we needed,” Smith explains.

Status as an educational institution allowed Southern to obtain exceptional pricing discounts on new regulators, buoyancy compensator devices, and wrist dive computers through an affiliation with Deep6 Gear. The new equipment will receive regular servicing and is expected to last a lifetime.

Smith’s first class included students from a variety of majors who were introduced to new skills in the classroom before practicing them in the pool and, eventually, in open water. The course culminated in a weekend trip to Lake Jocassee in South Carolina for students to complete their check-out dives, one of the last steps in the certification process. By the end of the course, each student attained a Scuba Schools International (SSI) Open Water Diver certification, enabling them to explore underwater around the world with other certified divers.

“God ensured that everything for this class fell into place,” Smith says. “The whole experience has been a lesson in the power of prayer and His perfect timing.” 

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