I asked all of the Youth Program staff to write blog posts for me that show what Courageous means to them and/or about a story that embodies their time at Courageous. I feel it is only fair for me to do the same…
I came to Courageous in 2011 after calling Kate, the Youth Program Director, and asking if she was interested in hiring an Environmental Educator. She enthusiastically said yes. So in 2011 I started as the Step Green Program Coordinator, took a hiatus in 2012, then returned in 2013 as the Courageously Green Environmental Education Program Director- a continuation of the Step Green program. From there, I moved on to become the Youth Program Outreach Coordinator where I assisted the Youth Program in all aspects including hiring staff for the summer of 2014, finding at-risk Boston Public School students for the SwimSailScience program, and helping with program design, organization, and public relations.
Even with all of those titles and responsibilities, Courageous meant more to me than just a job. Courageous is a place where I learned, under the guidance of the Youth Program Director and Executive Director, how to become a fair, respected, and kindhearted leader. Courageous is a place where I honed my strengths in multitasking and delegation. I will always remember my time at Courageous as more than just working at a sailing center, but as a place where I made a community and witnessed one of the strongest, most sincere, hardest working non-profit organizations in the community sailing world.
Over the three years I have worked here, I have held the hand of a fearful little girl from Dorchester and helped her conquer her fear of sailing, inspired instructors to study Environmental Studies in their college careers, and hopefully acted as a role model for how to be a successful woman in the sailing and science communities. This is what Courageous really is- a spot where one can both be inspired and be an inspiration.
And the sailing instructors and educators that I worked with at Courageous this summer are truly inspiring. They all care so deeply about the mission of our work and about changing lives by encouraging and teaching a passion for sailing. I will miss all of their random stories at the end of the day, their laughs about the weird activities that I plan, and their insightful questions about recycling and the environment.
As I move across the country and say goodbye to Courageous, I have no concerns about the future of this wonderful nonprofit. The leadership, instructors, and sailing students will keep this place thriving for years and years to come. In the end, I have to thank the two people who could never possibly understand how much what they do matters. Kate, the current Youth Program Director, is hands-down one of the hardest working people I have ever met. I will forever wonder at how she does so much, juggles so many boats, personnel, grants, and other various details. Kate has been an exceptional mentor, teaching me how to let go of the things that don’t matter and how to be passionate about the things that do matter- such as giving urban youth the opportunity to experience sailing and benefit from a fun, engaging summer youth program. I am truly lucky to have had Kate for a supervisor and even luckier that I can call her a friend.
And Dave, our current Executive Director, who is the other hardest working person I have ever met. I have to thank him for always believing in me and appreciating what I do. It is very rare to find a boss who has so many things on his/her plate yet still takes time to show how much he respects and values his employees. Dave has shown me how important it is to be a patient leader- that taking your time with certain decisions really does pay off. Having an Executive Director who is grateful, rational, and strong makes the employees work harder and better so they can live up to his example and make him proud, and in the end his leadership is what makes Courageous so successful.
Courageous Sailing is really the warm, sometimes a little wacky, community that everyone says it is. It keeps people returning year after year, looking for the meaningful purpose, the environment, and the heart that is at its core. I can’t wait to return after some time away to see all of the incredible things that is group has accomplished. Fair winds and see you all again soon :)
-Rebecca Inver, Youth Program Outreach Coordinator
By Allison McGuirk and Martin Weissgerber
A few weeks ago, I had a front row seat to hands-down the greatest show I have ever seen: the step 1/ 2 talent show. We had been cooped up in the big tent all day because of torrential rain and lightning, so our step leaders decided that it would be a great idea to see what talents or skills our kids possessed. In my experience, it can be like pulling teeth to get kids to open up enough to show you a talent or a skill, and some of these kids had only been together for 2 full days at this point, so I figured that only a few of the most extroverted kids would use the 10 short minutes that we gave them to put together a routine; however, I was completely wrong. All but around 5 of the kids participated in the talent show with acts that varied from opera singing to a scottish jig to gymnastics to regular singing to tying a knot while planking while reciting the ABCs. I was literally shocked to see that some of our shyest and smallest kids were willing to get up in front of a group of 10 instructors and 30 of their peers to perform raw, unrehearsed, and sometimes ridiculous talents. As I helped give out prizes to all of the kids who participated right after the talent show (some stylish sunglasses), I realized that this talent show really epitomized the Courageous experience. Courageous is a place where everyone is quirky, and everyone's quirks are valued. Every kid knew that his or her audience would be receptive and supportive of whatever he or she wanted to share, and that is what made the talent show so special. This environment is one that allows kids from all different backgrounds and of all different personality types to take risks and to be who they are. This is the atmosphere that helped me to grow into a confident sailor and young adult, and I am so proud to work here helping kids to gain confidence in themselves every day. – Allison McGuirk
On the first Wednesday of the first session it was pouring rain and thundering. Due to the latter, we could not go out sailing. Step 1, under the command of Emily Gaylord, decided to orchestrate a talent show. As kids signed up I read the list and saw a boy names Isaiah had signed up to sing ‘God Bless America.’ I thought it was him trying to be funny, yet when he took the stage, I was amazed. He broke into an opera voice, rendering the audience into a stunned disbelief. It was amazing to see a child have the courage to stand up in front of kids he had known for only three days, and put his heart into a song. I love Step 1 because the kids are too young to feel self-conscious. They do what they want and always amaze their fellow campers and instructors. – Martin Weissgerber
By Shamus Connelly
As an older kid at an after school program when I was in fifth grade, I was told to be a good example for the other children. If I was messing around they would tell me that I needed to be a good role model, that the younger students looked up to and copied me. As an ten year old boy I thought this was ridiculous. However, as an IIT at Courageous I have found this to be very true. It amazes me how after only minutes of working with new campers both instructor and students have built a relationship. I love to see the kids requesting a certain instructor or finding such satisfaction in just saying "HI!" to their favorite IIT. It makes me happy that we can be so important and influential in their learning.
I was really inspired to write about this yesterday when I visited my friend's house and saw his ten year old brother, a camper from last session, who is a role model himself by the standards of my old after school. I heard him yell my name and turned around to a gleaming face and a big hug. Spending time with him brought me back to our time at Courageous. And you can call us instructors role models but these little kids have made a positive influence in my life as well. I cherish how we've all grown through our experiences at Courageous. It only takes a fist bump from an SSS camper or a request from a step 2 student to be their instructor for me to see how we instructors have such a big influence on the children and to find pride in our role during their time as a camper. Even my fellow IIT Brandon and I, through our struggles as possible future 3rd year IITs, have had a positive role in the growth and experiences of these campers. This connection has encouraged me to be a better person and has made me proud to be at Courageous Sailing.
By John Zupkus
My most noteworthy Courageous Sailing moment came very early this season during a mini camp in the beginning of June. The Brooklyn Boulders/Courageous Sailing mini camp gave a group of 9 Boston children a chance to branch out and push their limits this summer. Completing these camps would undoubtedly leave each camper with a sense of personal achievement and a new perspective when it came to facing challenges. The first two days of camp were very windy even by my standards. A steady 15 knots with gusts well over 25. In these conditions it makes teaching the fundamentals of sailing a bit more difficult but there was a hunger among the campers to get a chance at the helm and be the one in charge of the boat's dramatic movements. On Wednesday, half way through the 1 week camp, all the campers had become comfortable with steering except my one reluctant and quiet camper Max. Max had been apprehensive about this whole sailing thing since day one and was thrust into some very fear inspiring situations those first couple days. I could tell he was scared so much so that on the second day Max came to camp accompanied by a small raccoon stuffed animal he called Leo to squeeze tightly between his hands when the boat began to heel past his point of comfort. Wednesday brought slightly lower pressure and I deemed it the perfect time for Max to get on the helm and made it my goal to simply build his confidence throughout the day. I guided him through the various maneuvers the other campers had already demonstrated while Max waited patiently yet fearfully the days prior. To my amazement Max made virtually no errors. He steered straight and could tack on a dime. He knew the points of sail and could anticipate a gybe better than any of the other children. By the end of the day I was blown away by how much Max had retained, but one obstacle remained. I knew for the rest of the week it was going to be my job to help Max over come his fears on the water.
Friday morning was our planned trip to George’s Island and the 20 knot breeze had returned once again. We made the trip out in just about and hour on a reach with two instructors per boat. The campers were ecstatic to be leaving the inner harbor and I could see an adventurous spirit growing with in everyone. I glanced over at little Max who was gripping his pet Leo to the point of strangulation as we heeled over under reefed sails and chop broke over the bow. Once moored and the campers were ferried to George’s, we were free to explore the Civil War era fort that occupied the island. We made our way through look out posts and long dark catacombs. Chatter about Civil War ghosts and spirits erupted between the campers and instructors alike. After lunch at 1pm it was time to get back to the boats and return to Courageous Base. By now the wind had picked up even more and we plotted a more direct route home omitting the Long Island bridge and passing Deer Island instead. 20 minutes out in one stretch on water the currents and wind combined to make the journey very choppy. By now the other 2 campers became concerned and this is when I saw my chance to help little Max overcome his fears. I placed him on the windward gunwale and instructed him to call out any gusts he saw indicated by darkening ripples on the water coming towards us and alert the crew. Again and again Max’s delicate voice rang out with a “gust off the port bow, hold on!” This small task occupied him for the next hour and I could tell that it was therapeutic in a way, making Max feel in control of his surroundings. With a renewed sense of confidence we made it to the inner harbor where the water calmed and the breeze lessened. When we passed the airport wharf I asked Max if he’d like to take the tiller for the rest of the journey. Without hesitation Max took the helm and steered us on a perfect course back home using the Bunker Hill Memorial as his waypoint.
This experience exemplifies what Courageous Sailing is all about in my eyes. Never in 100,000 years did Max or any of the other campers think they would have experienced such adventures. I witnessed every single camper that week grow in courage and confidence. Max told me when we reached the dock that he had never done anything that brave in his entire life.