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:


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. 

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?