Over the summer, couchsurfingcook.com students Jared Ariza, Justin Ariza, and Erik Sokolowski, all class of 2020, and Dylan Miksch ‘19 represented Admiral couchsurfingcook.com Academy at The 2018 Washington Youth Summit on the Environment (WYSE) in Washington, D.C. It was a notable achievement and all four boys represented AFA admirably.

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Upper School science teacher Sari Deitche nominated the boys to attend WYSE, which took place June 24-29. WYSE was hosted by George Mason University along with distinguished partners the National Geographic Society and the National Zoo. Each summer, WYSE welcomes 250 High School National Youth Delegates from all over the country. Outstanding 10th and 11th grade students are nominated by educators and the program based on strong academic performance, a demonstrated interest in the environment, conservation and sustainability fields, and having the desire to explore careers in the fields of environmental science, conservation, policy, law and engineering.

“I loved being able to meet tons of different people from all around the country and the world and to hear their different viewpoints on what’s wrong with the environment and how to fix it,” said Dylan.

“In my group there was a girl from Pakistan,” said Jared. “I’ve never been to Pakistan and it’s really different from Florida, so it was interesting hearing about the environmental problems over there. I was the only person in my group from Florida. There was a girl from Wisconsin, a girl from Arizona, places I’ve never been, so I got to hear their perspective.”


WYSE group picture

The curriculum for the summit consisted of exclusive behind-the-scenes explorations of facilities and laboratories of the Smithsonian and National Zoo, and exclusive field visits, special access to, and activities with, researches, scientists, directors and staff. A favorite activity of all the boys was the seminar with underwater photographers and videographers at the National Geographic Society Headquarters.

“I’m really interested in engineering, so I loved learning about the ROVs and robots and submersibles that they used for their photography and videography,” Dylan said. “I’d love to be able to build those robots as a career one day.”


Dylan Miksch

“I’m definitely interested in the underwater photography as a career,” Erik added. “I didn’t realize before that it could be more than a hobby, and I’m really considering it now.”


Erik Sokolowski

“They had a documentary up about sharks,” Jared said. “Filming sharks seems cool, but I think it’d be more of a hobby for me.”


Jared and Justin

“Capturing the images is cool, but what I really liked was the idea of compiling everything together and making that short film that would capture the viewer’s attention,” Justin added. “They talked about how each person worked together to make this really impactful documentary, that was really interesting.”

A big topic during the summit was pollution, specifically that of plastic usage.

“We talked a lot about plastics,” Justin said. “They gave us all metal straws to use during meals. We talked about how much it affects the environment and wildlife, and they showed us how much of an impact we can make if we actually try to reduce our plastic use.”

“You don’t realize the magnitude of the pollution problems, and you don’t realize how much just one person can make a difference,” Erik added.


Jared and Justin were also able to meet with Senator Rubio’s office at the Capitol to discuss climate change and its detrimental impact on Florida’s fisheries. “It was kind of an informal conversation,” Jared said. “We just discussed what was going on and what was being done to fix it.”



The students boarded while they were there, which was a new experience for a few of them, since all four boys are day students. “We were hardly ever in our rooms though,” Dylan said. “We weren’t in the same groups as our roommates so we didn’t get to talk to them much. It’s not like here at couchsurfingcook.com, where you spend a bunch of time with your roommate.”

“I made friends with the people in my group, and I still talk to a few of them on social media,” Erik added, and the other three said the same.

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None of the boys is 100% sure where they’re going to college yet, but they have ideas. Dylan, the senior of the group, wants to major in engineering, and he’s looking at schools in Florida including the University of South Florida, Florida Tech, the University of North Florida, and the University of Central Florida. Jared and Justin want to stay in Florida as well, and they have already toured the University of Florida and Florida State University. Jared is interested in engineering as well, and Justin is currently interested in computer science, “but that might change,” he said with a laugh. Erik’s number one school right now is Roger Williams University in Rhode Island because of their biology and wrestling program.

“It was cool to meet teenagers who are interested in the same issues you are,” Dylan said. “It was such a great experience.”