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A Senior Student Breathes Life Into School Aquarium

James Demolina, a senior student at West High School, Anchorage, seems to be a reef enthusiast for it was he who envisioned what an unused tank at his school could be built into. His passion for oceanography led him to think beyond everyone else and in the picture you can see what changes it brought about.

For West High School student James Demolina, the two run-down, unused fish tanks at his school were a total misuse. The two 260-gallon tanks were built into the walls of the science wing years ago and were a project of retired teacher Brian Maxwell. Demolina pondered that if he could bring life back to the tanks he could help motivate other students to take an interest in science, particularly marine biology and oceanography, Demolina’s passions.

With the tanks in place and storage rooms full of old filters and equipment, he was halfway there but lacked the possessions to complete his vision. Yeah, we reef fanatics know exactly that setting up a saltwater tank is no easy job and neither it is an inexpensive one. Working with his Science Teacher Rees Miller, he wrote a grant request and submitted it to the West PTSA. Demolina presented his proposal which was accepted and he was soon awarded funds for the project. With funding in hand, he reached out to Alaska Coral Fanatics for support. Demolina initiated a School Business Partnership agreement between Alaska Coral Fanatics and West High. Alaska Coral Fanatics is an education-based business, so they said this project was right up their alley. They initially helped with treatment of the tanks since they were
unused since long and needed care before the lives came in to stay and they now provide ongoing support.

The business allowed Demolina and Miller to purchase fish and supplies at cost, which helps conserve their funds. In exchange for the business’ generosity, Demolina volunteers on the weekends.
Demolina’s goal was to make the tanks alluring and educational. From what we see in the picture, the bright colorful corals are well cultivated inside and the attractive part is so well achieved. For educational part, we are pretty sure, these tanks are going to inspire more and more new aquarists from the school campus. He decided to make one tank freshwater and one saltwater to allow for a variety of different species.

Miller always hoped the tanks would be restored, but knew it would take a student who was a hard worker to lead the charge. “James has shown amazing dedication to the setup, design and maintenance of the two tanks,” said Miller. “The students at West love it!”

With Demolina heading off to the University of Hawaii at Manoa next year to study Oceanography, the school’s science teachers will look to find another student who will take the project on. Following your passion is not always that difficult as people believe it to be. All you need is hard work, right knowledge and dedication.