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The Los Angeles Maritime Institute/Topsail
I have not forgotten how I used to take a child every year to the sea, as to a maternal element better fitted than I to teach, ripen, and perfect the mind and body I had merely rough-hewn. --Colette
Kelly’s brother and KABF Director Eric Martincavage, recommended The Los Angeles Maritime Institute’s Topsail Program as a natural fit for the Kelly Ann Brown Foundation’s mission. As a member of the United States Coast Guard, Eric gladly volunteered with LAMI’s Topsail program taking students on an incredible sea voyage aboard one of their tall ships, and was blown away by the enthusiasm of the students who peppered him with non-stop questions. Topsail, “an education and adventure experience,” gives students the opportunity to gain skills that include team-building, problem-solving, and leadership. The program consists of day sails scheduled over several months, with each day’s activities focused on gaining the skills the students need for the days sailing. Eric was surprised to learn that, although many of the kids lived a mile or two from the beach, they had never actually seen the ocean. Eric felt the Topsail program was a chance of a lifetime for these under-served kids and couldn’t wait to share his experience with the rest of the KABF board.
The Los Angeles Maritime Institute (LAMI) was founded in 1992 by Captain Jim Gladson, a retired science teacher and US Coast Guard licensed captain. As a volunteer organization, LAMI relies on the skills and enthusiasm of several hundred volunteers, who not only sail and maintain the ships, but the programs as well. The Topsail Youth Program is one of the many fulfilling and fun programs they offer. Most people put “education” and “adventure” into two separate categories that never overlap. TopSail challenges this by taking education out of the classroom and aboard their sailing vessels for an adventure kids will never forget. TopSail empowers children by giving them the tools and skills to man and drive a vessel, literally opening their eyes to the wide horizon and all the possibilities it holds. They strive to run their program with this motto: “TopSail does not train youth for lives at sea…We use the sea to educate youth for life.” TopSail’s main focus is under-served youth between the ages of 12 and 18, but because this experience would be beneficial to all, regardless of race, ethnicity, social status or income, the program is designed to be flexible and changes depending on the needs of the kids and volunteers. We honor Kelly by supporting TopSail because it broadens horizons, not only for the youth involved, but the volunteers who work with them.
Click here for more information on LAMI and all their programs.
We received a lovely letter and photos from Elizabeth Neat of the Ellen Ochoa Learning Center, thanking KABF for allowing her students to participate in LAMI’s Topsail Program:
Dear Kelly Ann Brown Foundation Directors:
Ellen Ochoa Learning Center is a public school in one of the poorest, most densely populated areas of Los Angeles County. Ninety-five percent of its students live in poverty, as demonstrated by their eligibility for the federal free lunch program. Sailing is one of the activities of the middle school’s Outdoor Adventures Club. The club advisors added their own version of the “3R’s” to the traditional READING, ‘RITING and ‘RITHMETIC. These are RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY AND RESILIENCE. Through experiencing nature first-hand, students develop a respect for themselves, for each other and for the environment. Through stewardship projects, they learn responsibility. Through meeting physical challenges, they acquire the resilience to overcome life’s setbacks. The lessons of respect and responsibility are clearly reinforced on sailing trips—only through teamwork and respect for each other and for the ship’s crew are we able to sail the ship. When the Captain calls, ‘All hands to sailing stations,’ one’s responsibility is clear. The lesson of resilience comes with meeting physical challenges like making it to the top of the ship’s mast or overcoming one’s fear and hanging out on the bowsprit. Resilience, or a sense of confidence and the ability to bounce back, is an attribute that benefits everyone, but is critical for young people facing the challenges of poverty. Sitting in the crow’s nest of a sailing ship, feeling the mast sway in the wind, is a memory to cherish, and it brings with it a sense of wonder and possibility. I have been taking students sailing with the Los Angeles Topsail Program for almost twenty years, and I have seen its impact again and again on students’ social and academic development.