The 2024 Youth for the SDGs program is a unique experiential learning and capacity-building program for young activists and scholars engaged in SDG-related initiatives from around the world. Youth leaders will join together with experts in the field and learn from local partners working on ocean and climate action through various initiatives such as with Blue Economy programs in Manzanillo and working with Ocean Wise Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOPS) partners in Vancouver, sharing in their efforts to protect the pristine natural resources, kelp forests and biodiversity within the Pacific Coast region as we sail to Alaska.

During the voyage, youth will also be participating in a citizen science program in collaboration with the non profit organization EarthEcho International to perform water quality testing in different ports of call and bodies of water within the mangroves and coral reefs of the Mexican Pacific coast and in the glaciers of the Alaskan fjords of Ketchikan and Seward, as well as the ocean and lakes in Vancouver. This data will then be shared with the IOC UNESCO platform entitled ODIS – Ocean Data Information System as part of our contribution to the UN Ocean Decade and education for SDG 14, Life Below Water.

Ashoke Mohanraj – Canada

Ashoke Mohanraj is a second-year law student at the Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University, with a specialization in Marine and Environmental Law. Before embarking on his legal studies, Ashoke served as an Environmental Advisor for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, where he played a pivotal role in implementing Canada’s Greening Government Strategy. His responsibilities included spearheading initiatives on decarbonization, climate adaptation, and the electrification of the National Safety and Security Fleet.

He currently works as a legal research assistant at Project Ploughshares where he is helping to develop their research program on climate, peace and security, with a specific focus on Arctic governance.  In his spare time, he writes children’s book and is currently working on adapting his 2nd book, Dolphin Dude, into an animated film! On the surface the book is designed to teach audiences about marine and ocean conservation, but if you dive below the surface it’s about teaching kids that “caring is cool!”

Valentina Jimenez – Ecuador

Valentina is a Latinx creative and intersectional storyteller whose diverse and non-linear journey has shaped her unique perspective on environmental and social justice. Growing up near the Ecuadorian coast, she developed a profound connection to the ocean, inspiring her lifelong commitment to projects related to marine conservation and climate action. Valentina’s professional journey in media production, strategic communications, and community engagement is deeply intertwined with her advocacy work, including significant contributions to marine conservation projects and grassroots movements around food justice and indigenous sovereignty.

Her work with YASUNIDOS on the SIalYasuni campaign and her role as a Benioff Ocean Initiative Fellow highlight her dedication to protecting vulnerable ecosystems and amplifying underrepresented voices. Additionally, Valentina has actively campaigned to remove big polluters from the UNFCCC conference spaces, emphasizing the importance of genuine climate action free from corporate interference. Through her work, Valentina aims to create more resilient and inclusive communities, particularly those most vulnerable to climate change. Her approach combines powerful storytelling with tangible conservation efforts, fostering a more sustainable and equitable future. Valentina is committed to working towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 13 (Climate Action) and 10 (Reduced Inequalities) during the Ocean Decade, reflecting her unwavering commitment to creating a more just and equitable world.

Alexandra Guzman – Panama

Alexandra’s journey in marine biology began with a passion for understanding and protecting our oceans. Through her academic pursuits, she has gained valuable insights into the interconnectedness of marine ecosystems and the profound impact of human activities on ocean health. Alexandra’s current research focuses on monitoring water quality, temperature fluctuations, and ocean acidification in the Bay of Panama. This work not only enhances our understanding of local marine environments but also contributes to broader efforts in global ocean conservation.

In addition to her research endeavors, Alexandra is actively involved in community engagement and education initiatives. As the hub leader of SOA Panama, she has had the privilege of organizing workshops and activities to educate children and young people about Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life Below Water. These experiences have reinforced her belief in the power of grassroots advocacy and youth empowerment in effecting positive change.

Liana Lekocevic – USA

Liana – a New York native – graduated Barnard College of Columbia University in May of 2024. Throughout high school and college, she worked toward SDG 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. As a member of Peace Buddies in South Korea during her junior year study abroad experience, she worked towards building bridges and fostering relationships between people of diverse cultures and faiths. In high school, she ran International Club and had planned an International Fair at her school before COVID-19 lockdown occurred, which would have exposed the people of her small high school to different cultures and foods from around the world.

In her sophomore year, she also helped facilitate a youth program in Belfast, Northern Ireland, that brought children from Protestant and Catholic faiths together in order to – as the teacher who organized the trip would say – “build doors, not walls.” Liana has also discovered the best ways to economically incorporate the values of SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation, into her, her family’s, and her friends’ lives. She has worked on finding small, affordable ways to ensure the local water supply remains viable and clean. As a member of a rural community, Liana has recently expanded her focus to find ways to get the importance of conserving water across to others in her community in a way to which they will be receptive.

Renee Smith – Grenada

Renee is born and raised on the island of Grenada, she developed a passion for the marine world early on, inspired by the island’s beaches and aquatic ecosystems. Her academic journey began in 2012 with an associate degree in Sociology and Geography, focusing on the relationship between humans and nature. Reene earned a Bachelor of Science in Marine, Wildlife, and Conversation Biology from St. George’s University. Her studies emphasized tropical marine ecology, ocean health and the effects of climate change on biodiversity.

Reene is determined to make a significant impact, she aspires to pursue her graduate studies in Environmental Remediation and Pollution Control, aiming to address the complexities of human influence on valuable ecosystems. In parallel, Reene became a PADI Divemaster in 2015, gaining a profound connection with the ocean through numerous dives and encounters with diverse marine life. This combination of academic and practical experience has fueled Reene’s commitment to ocean conservation. Currently employed with the Ministry of Climate Resilience, the Environment & Renewable Energy, Reene is dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of Grenada and mitigating the adverse effects of human activity on biodiversity.

Emilie McGlone – USA

This unique program is coordinated by Emilie McGlone, Director of Peace Boat US. In 2004, Emilie began working for Peace Boat in Tokyo, Japan for the International Division and is currently based in New York City, where she works closely with United Nations partners, youth and international NGOs working towards ocean and climate action. Since 2021, Emilie has collaborated with the United Nations Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea (DOALOS) to support the Friends of UN World Oceans Day Working Group coordination and continues to lead various youth programs throughout the year.