Casey Sokolovic ’19 started a fundraiser for sea turtles when she was eight years old. After a field trip to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on Topsail Island where the tremendous need for financial support was apparent, Sokolovic wanted to help. In her hometown of Greenville, NC, she sold turtle-shaped sugar cookies to raise money and called it Help Them LAST – Love a Sea Turtle. From there, her love for sea turtles quickly escalated to a larger interest in ocean conservation and environmentalism.
After a trip to the local Boys & Girls Club, Sokolovic saw a natural connection between the needs of her surrounding youth and her passion for the environment. “When I visited the Boys & Girls Club in my hometown, I saw a gap that wasn’t being filled. Especially during the summer, there [was a large] learning gap that needed to be bridged, and I was really passionate about filling this because I know my summers were always full of really enriching activities… Whether I was playing at the pool with my friends or I was going outside in nature, I learned about the benefits of being outside and environmentalism from my family – which a lot of these students didn’t get.” Noticing many of these issues arose when organizations were underfunded and understaffed, Sokolovic developed a free STEM-focused summer camp program to encourage children of all ages to venture out and become involved in nature activities. She found it was important to connect classroom topics to hands-on outdoor applications in an engaging way.
Since its inception, Love a Sea Turtle has added youth summer camps, beach clean ups, water quality testing, and other activities to connect young people with opportunities to learn about and help the environment in Greenville. With an eye toward program sustainability, Love a Sea Turtle has partnered with other organizations, such as River Park North, to host and sponsor the summer camps. Now that Sokolovic is at NC State, her role has changed, which necessitated some of the partnerships and sharing of responsibility. Sokolovic noted it was a strong change coming from the front lines, where she initiated all growth, to then step back and see where her “turtle team” could slowly take on a more active stance in support of the organization.
At NC State, Sokolovic will graduate early with a degree in marketing and plans to pursue the global luxury management master’s degree next fall. She attributes much of her success at NC State to her participation in the Park Scholarships program. “I think if I hadn’t been in the Park Scholarships program I may not have been as ready to pursue my career goals and everything [that follows]. I would not be graduating in three years or pursuing a master’s. I may have just tried to float by and do the four years simply because I didn’t have other people who are driven around me. Having that support network with others who are as ambitious as you are has really helped propel me forward in doing a lot of the things that I’ve accomplished.”
Love a Sea Turtle was recently featured on Exploration Station, and was recognized with US Cellular’s The Future of Good Award.