San Francisco State UniversityA-ZSearchCalendarNeed help?News

SF State News
SF State News Home
SFSU in the News
Events Calendar
Gator Sports News

Expert commentary
Expert Commentary 1
Expert Commentary 2
Expert Commentary 3

For Journalists
News Releases
Faculty Experts
Public Affairs Staff

For Faculty
Submit a News Item
Be an Expert Source
Working with the  Media

SFSU Publications
SFSU Magazine

Public Affairs

Students make voyage of learning and discovery

March 2, 2004

Photo of the 138-foot Schooner Denis Sullivan which will serve as the Tall Ship program's floating classroomAfter five weeks learning to plot latitude and longitude coordinates, studying global climate patterns, taking swim lessons and reading Caribbean literature in classrooms at San Francisco State's Gym, 14 San Francisco high school students in the University's Tall Ship Semester for Girls program are now on board the Denis Sullivan, a 138-foot, three-masted schooner that serves as their floating classroom until April 9. The girls, armed with their passports and their newfound knowledge, will learn to sail the vessel to ports and islands in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Honduras and Belize. They also will enjoy opportunities to meet the diverse Caribbean islanders, learn their history and culture, and taste the local cuisine while on day trips at ports of call.

"There is a 10-person professional crew onboard, but the idea is that by the end of the voyage, the girls will become the officers and will run the ship. They will sail it back to Florida," said Tall Ship Director Nettie Kelly, who is with them on the voyage and taught them navigation and oceanography classes on campus.

While on campus, the girls also took humanities classes from Ellie Goldberg, who is working to get her teaching credential at SFSU. Tall Ship Advisory Board member Elisabeth Watson taught an economics and personal finance class and SFSU student Robyn Kessler served as the program's intern.

This voyage marks the first time the program will sail the Denis Sullivan, a replica of a 19th century Great Lakes schooner which serves as Wisconsin's "Floating Classroom and Ambassador Flagship" and is based in Milwaukee on Lake Michigan. In earlier expeditions, the girls sailed aboard the True Blue, a 118-foot, two-masted schooner. "My friends and family think I'm lucky and are so jealous," said 17-year-old Helen Phay, a Cambodian-American from the now closed Urban Pioneer charter school. "I wanted to have a different way of learning and to challenge myself so I applied for this program."

Photo of Tall Ship participant Tierra Hairston on a zip line at a ropes training courseMost of the students have never sailed and are from low-income families. They are sophomores, juniors and seniors from International Studies Academy, Leadership, Gateway, Galileo, John O'Connell and Balboa high schools.

"The girls learn how to communicate more effectively, work together, solve problems and enjoy a sense of accomplishment," said Kelly.

Tuition for the program runs $8,200, but most of the students receive financial assistance and scholarships. To pay for their portion, students hosted car washes, held bake sales, sold T-shirts and delivered flowers for San Francisco florists on Valentine's Day. The students gain a whole new vocabulary, learning how to weigh anchor, hoist and strike sails, monitor the engine, prepare meals, deal with seasickness, take short showers, and clean the galley and the "heads," which means bathrooms in sailing lingo, said Kelly.

The program was founded in 1998 by alumna and sailing aficionado Caitlin Schwarzman, who was teaching at Mercy High School while working on her master's degree. As part of her thesis, she created the program to introduce San Francisco public high school girls to the sea and sailing, and to foster teamwork, leadership and responsibility. In previous years, it was run by San Francisco's America True yacht racing foundation and last year came under the auspices of the University.

The crew returns to San Francisco on April 9 and the students return to campus April 21 twice a week to finish the semester. They spend the other three days working as interns at Bay Area maritime organizations. Graduation is June 1.

-- Susan Arthur
Photos: Courtesy of Tall Ship Semester for Girls

Note: Follow the girls' voyage online. Applications for next year's program will be available in June. For details, visit the Tall Ship Web site.


San Francisco State University

Home     Search     Need Help?    

1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132    (415) 338-1111
Last modified July 27, 2004 by University Communications