Making a splash in the off-season!

Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean we take a break! Carpe Ventus, in partnership with By the Hand, continues to make a splash even in the off season by getting the kids off the grid and INTO the water! 

We are in our 10th week of swim lessons- and not only have we worked on getting comfortable in the water, but the kids are mastering their streamlines and moving on to learning more technical aspects of swimming such as Freestyle and Backstroke. We've even had a few boys take on the deep end and swim the entire length of the pool!

We have 5 sessions left and then out to the boat! So thankful for the opportunity to work with By the Hand and can't wait to see what is in store for us in the future! 

Taking Risks and Building Bridges with Dr. Sunitha Chandy

Dr. Sunitha Chandy, licensed clinical psychologist and Vice-President of the Carpe Ventus Board of Directors spoke with Kin City about seizing the wind.  Listen in as she talks about the character building elements of risk taking, building bridges and adventure. And hear why she's so excited to be a part of Carpe Ventus.

Definitely not an "off-season"!

Let's just say the "off-season" is anything but slow.

Let's just say the "off-season" is anything but slow.

We have been making phenomenal progress!  There are actually way more stories than space, but we have been working extremely hard getting ready for the sailing season.  Some of the highlights have been working with our growing team of great volunteers and making new friends in the sailing community!  That has all been happening while climbing mountains of admin and hacking through jungles of red tape, but that is all part of founding an organization and it is well worth the work. 

The Carpe Ventus curriculum team tailored an experiential learning series to our needs and led a total of 23 people through our first round! 

Over the course of six sessions, this group developed a sense of community and took some life-giving risks through active learning about identity development, racial and cultural dynamics, dealing with fear and anxiety, in-the-moment problem solving, teamwork and self-care.  We were also challenged by learning more about the historical and present injustice against various ethnicities and particularly toward black people in our country and in Chicago. 

By training our team in this way we will be equipped to create a learning environment that builds trust from the beginning and develops the foundational skills necessary to take life-giving risks and do new and challenging things both on the grid in their communities and on water.   We are preparing to learn and grow by befriending and walking alongside people from often under-resourced and marginalized communities.

The interactive learning experiences plus the conversations had a powerful impact on all of us!  We heard difficult parts of others’ stories, we were also challenged to perceive and respond in different ways than we may have in the past.  Some who participated reported that their perspective was revolutionized!  One of them has signed on to attend again on April 16 to apprentice toward training volunteers in future rounds of Groundwork Sessions! (There's still time to register and join us!)

Over the next couple of months we will be working with mentoring organizations to get dates scheduled. (Mentors and orgs, get more details and sign up here!)   We are working toward launching the boat in mid to late April.  Our focus in May will be training our existing and new volunteers while verifying that our systems are working so we can be ready to hit the ground running in June and keep it up through the end of October.  So there are lots of exciting things happening, thanks for keeping up with the journey! 

Interested in joining us in the adventure?  Here are some next steps for you:


Justice, Drugs and Race

The headline read, "The man who invented the war on drugs owns its true anti-black intentions!"

Please take two minutes to read the article (not  just the headline) covered by many media outlets such as CNN, Huffington Post and Jezebel to name a few.   Without getting tangled in the weeds of the drug legalization debate (I'll own that pun), this is powerful truth about our history and present!  We believe that knowing and owning how we got here empowers us to change where we are going.  It is the very foundation of redemptive relationships and this is a core element of Carpe Ventus.

Nixon's former policy advisor, John Ehrlichman, admitted just one of the many ways that black people in particular have been targeted for oppression in this country post legalized slavery.  In and interview Ehrlichman shamelessly owned the intentions behind the war on drugs:

"We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news."

As Hilary Hanson at Huffington Post states,

"In other words, the intense racial targeting that’s become synonymous with the drug war wasn’t an unintended side effect — it was the whole point."
Click through for the original article from the Chicago Reader.

Click through for the original article from the Chicago Reader.

Policies like these have put the label "criminal" disproportionately on non-white people and particularly on young black men, both historically and in the present. For-profit prisons create demand for criminals and produce unjust lobbying. People with a criminal record find it very difficult to get a job... ever. Lack of legal options for legal income drives people to illegal income sources and makes it difficult to be a stable family member, produces violence and reinforces stereotypes.

As a country we created these problems and for the amount of money we are spending to maintain them we could own our past and make changes that will reverse the tide. We need to end for-profit prisons, decriminalize low-level drug offenses and take them off the records of past offenders so they have a better chance of getting jobs. We need to use other means of rehabilitation including better on-ramps to job training and legal sources of income.

We need to live up to our ideal that "all people are created equal" and stop living like some people are inherently worse than others because of how they look. We have some terrible things in our past, but we are blessed with the freedom to redefine our future.

Carpe Ventus is fully invested in breaking the cycle through redemptive, stereotype-smashing relationships and empowerment through sailing, kiteboarding and windsurfing! If you are wondering what to do, come and join us!



Board Profile - Laine Klopfenstein: Scientist, Teacher, Sailing Instructor

As a scientist, I like facts and information. So let’s start with some statistics. As I sit down to write this, on August 22, 2015, there have been 293 homicides in Chicago this year. There are roughly 22,000 homeless students in Chicago Public Schools. 51% of all children in Chicago live in single-parent households. These are all facts, easily found via a few quick keystrokes and your favorite search engine. They are also facts that took on a new perspective for me during my time as a high school science teacher on the south side. 20% of my students were, or were about to be, parents. Roughly 30% of my students were homeless. I lost two students to gun violence.

Often when I talk about this experience, or the issues around Chicago, I get fairly standard responses. People shake their heads, say how terrible it is, and maybe put a scapegoat into their crosshairs while writing off a generation of youth. Solutions or ideas of ways to help are few and far between, and there is no magic bullet. That being said, I truly believe that relationships are one of the only ways to break the cycles of violence and poverty in our city.

When I was in the classroom, I had the privilege of running Science Club. We would take any crazy project that we could find; a recycling competition, raising super-worms, planting plants for teacher appreciation day, building robot cars. It was often a chaotic mess in my room, but I loved to watch as the students experienced something new, and, for a couple hours a week, looked at something with a new perspective. I saw the value of pushing students out of their comfort zone and I also saw the value of strong relationships with adults.

For me, joining the board of Carpe Ventus was a fairly easy decision. Carpe Ventus is an organization that has the ability to push students out of their daily routines and support existing relationships between young people and adults. I see this organization as one that is dedicated to partnering with the young people of this city, and their mentors, to open the door to experience a new perspective. Carpe Ventus is not trying to simply take mentees/mentors out for a sail to see how cool it is. Instead, the organization is committed to creating the space and place for mentees, mentors, and instructors to build and deepen relationships that can challenge preconceptions and empower participants. Carpe Ventus is purposefully organized so that a new perspective on the water can lead to discussions on teamwork, cultural differences, communication and risk-taking. Carpe Ventus is an organization whose goal is to strengthen these relationships, which I believe can begin to positively impact the lives and futures of Chicago’s youth. 

The Research Behind the Wind


Written by: Sunitha Chandy, PsyD

Prior to joining the Carpe Ventus board I had never been on a sailboat. So the main question I get is how a Landlubber like me ended up on the board of a nonprofit all about water sports. But it was love at first talk when I heard about the vision of Carpe Ventus.

This may have a lot to do with my other love, research, program development and evaluation!  It's hard not to embrace the inner nerd after the 5 years of graduate study needed to get my doctorate in Clinical Psychology. During those years nothing sparked my interest like talk of developmental assets, youth violence prevention and grassroots programs.

So maybe you're starting to see where the attraction to Carpe Ventus began. Research shows us that increasing developmental assets in at-risk youth can increase their chances of thriving. Carpe Ventus is intentional about utilizing Best Practices for Youth Violence Prevention and Positive Youth Development research to teach skills and concepts that lead to growth.

We want to equip healthy risk takers to break the barriers that hold them back by equipping them actively with the skills needed to do so. The best way to learn to break barriers is to take risks, and learn how to have fun while doing it!

The other thing that has me SO excited about Carpe Ventus is that to do this we need coaches with the same skills. If we look at our own lives and at areas of struggle that have led to our growth and success we see the positive supporters who encouraged and pushed us not to give up. We see ourselves having to step into fears, embrace challenges,  navigate new situations, learn how to work with diverse teams and adapt to new environments without losing ourselves.  This is how we have achieved our own success and this is how our youths can too.

So this is where we need risk-takers like you.
We are recruiting the adventurers, the boundary pushers, the thrivers to join alongside us to create real change in our city through the natural resource we have in Chicago, our lakefront. Our coaches training is geared to teaching our coaches to address and be aware of barriers in their lives and the lives of our youths.  Through actively learning about identity development, racial and cultural dynamics, dealing with fear and anxiety, in the moment problem solving, teamwork and self- care our coaches will be equipped to teach the skills we see as foundational in helping us take the risks needed to step out and do something new.

We at Carpe Ventus are building a community that can have fun together and take risks together to create a better Chicago, and we hope you're up for the ride too!

Why Sailing, Windsurfing and Kiteboarding?

What is the net value?”  I have been asked.  It is a good question.  What do these “sports for the affluent” have to offer those who have really serious obstacles to overcome if they are even to survive to adulthood?  The sailors, kiteboarders or windsurfers with whom I have shared the vision seem to see the possibilities right away; riding the wind and waves has a way of changing perspectives and it is something we want to share, but most of them do not know where to start. 

Participants from Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation on a pilot run

Participants from Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation on a pilot run

David Kelly has invested the last 15 years in co-founding and running a center for peace and healing called Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in one of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods.  He has said, “We have too many youth who are operating out of a sense of not having any worth — that is pretty much what they have heard — and too many have bought into it. They have all experienced serious violence, and so are dealing with significant trauma and the effects that come with it.  So what you have are young people who are carrying a deep sense of shame, who are traumatized, who have nothing to do, and nowhere to go.”[1] He has also said, “Every kid in our neighborhood knows someone close to them who has been killed so little kids grow up not feeling invincible, but feeling vulnerable.”[2]

One sunny, windy, wavy morning this July we got to take some of the young men involved in David Kelly’s program out sailing along with their mentor as a pilot experience.  Through three outings on the boat each of them got a turn and some wanted to go out a second time despite the large waves.  One of them compared it to riding a roller coaster.  We built on the experience by running group problem solving/team building challenges during their turns on shore. 

As I talked with David Kelly afterward, he said, “They had a good time, some said they were a little scared, they were outside of their comfort zone which was a good thing.  They came back telling good stories so the younger group at the center wants to go sailing too.  Some of them were laughing as they showed pictures they had taken with their phones.  Overall, it was a good team building activity.”  When I asked them, most told me they would like to sail again and some were even interested in taking classes to learn how to sail.  We would really like to teach them along with the other content Carpe Ventus is developing!

It is important that young people learn how to pass tests on paper and on computers.  It is also important to learn how to pass real life tests in a completely foreign situation and to learn adaptive leadership.  These young men have daily, real life tests of survival, but we have the chance to provide a completely different category of challenge and along with it, a changed perspective about what could be.

Even with great intellect and education, if someone has no vision for the direction of their life and no sense of self-worth how can we expect something other than destructive results?  If you and I grew up surrounded by violence, where no one we knew had a job or college education, would our lives look like they do today?  If we only had a really lousy set of choices would we somehow set a good course in life?  Carpe Ventus is creating bridges between communities. This will add to the support network of the young people involved.

We are finding more and more organizations that are making a powerful impact in their communities.  They are responding with excitement to the opportunity to learn life principles and business skills through sailing.  They are saying this is the kind of thing they need to further strengthen what they are doing.  We are working hard to get all the resources and elements in place to be able to come alongside of them.  Thanks for helping us build

[1] Chicago Sun-Times 7/12/14 Stopping Violence Starts with Hope by John Maki.

[2] MSNBC Originals video Rochochet: Part 3: Who buys the guns?