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Collaboration creates unique youth engagement

Wind & Oar partners with Wilamette Sailing Club (WSC)

This summer marked the 4th year that Wind & Oar Boat School has set up camp in the WSC storage lot. The two big tents in the parking lot have were home to a unique collaboration between Willamette Sailing Club, Oregon Youth Sailing Foundation, and Wind & Oar Boat School; a partnership that introduced scores of underserved Portland area youth to sailing and boating while engaging them in project-based learning that enhances an array of skills.

In 2020, the pandemic had shut down nearly all summer youth activities and any that did happen were constrained by strict protocols. Wind & Oar was contacted by Camp ELSO about providing a program for some of their kids and the hurdle was how to meet the standards set by the Oregon Health Authority. Since Wind & Oar is in regular contact with the Oregon Youth Sailing Foundation, Wind & Oar approached their leadership to see how a program might be set up using the outdoor space at WSC and the support of OYSF. The result was two 2-week programs in which 15 youth, ages 11 to 17, built two 11-foot skiffs in the mornings and learned to sail in the afternoons. Now four summers in, the program has grown to include 8-10 weeks of camp serving campers from across the Portland metro area. Our youth serving community organizations include PPS Alliance HS at Meek, POIC/RAHS, Blueprint Foundation, IRCO, iUrban Teen, and newest in 2023, AYCO and CAIRO. These last two organizations serve immigrant and refugee youth from Africa nations.

In 2021, as schools had adjusted to distance learning and alternative means for awarding academic credit were being explored, Wind & Oar leveraged its relationship with Alliance at Meek H.S. to offer two credit recovery programs using boat building to obtain math and science credits. In addition, POIC+Rosemary Anderson H.S. sent a group of high school students called “The Green Team,” who were spending the summer gaining work experience, for a 2-week stint building and sailing. By the end of 2022, we had offered four high school credit recovery programs and two work experience programs. In addition, several students each summer had become Coaches in Training for OYSF or had joined the sailing team, and one had become a Wind & Oar instructor, for both camps and in-school programs.

The summer of 2023 presented new challenges, all of which were complications from the fallout of the Covid pandemic. Schools were struggling with a new social order, staff on all fronts was proving difficult to retain, and schedules conflicted with each other. The upshot was that we were forced to shorten our summer by two weeks, which meant dropping one program. The scramble was on and working together with OYSF, we were able to bring the African Youth and Community Organization (AYCO) and the Center for African Immigrant and Refugee Organization (CAIRO) in for one-week programs. These short programs forced a shift in boat selection since the skiff build takes two weeks. As luck would have it, W&O had been investigating building a canoe and the timeline for doing that fit the one-week format. This build compressed some of the learning opportunities, but there was indeed, significant engagement in the process.

The silver lining in 2023 is that we grew as an organization in ways we had not anticipated. OYSF and Wind & Oar proved that they could work together under adverse conditions to achieve both organizations’ goals, and bring a new audience to sailing through the efforts of Community Sailing and Willamette Sailing Club. Wind & Oar’s mission is to engage youth and inspire learning and we are comfortable saying that we did that as well this summer as we have ever done it, and WSC’s, OYSF’s, and W&O’s staff all deserve a great deal of credit.

Thank you, 

Peter Crim, Executive Director