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HMSA Lifesail

Hawthorne Students Build Two Boats,
Go to Sea

Daily Breeze Article By Sandy Mazza, Staff Writer

Posted:   05/14/2012 06:17:02 AM PDT

lifesail 1

Denise Guzman navigates the sailboat Optimus Prime with instructor Daniel Dimal. Hawthorne Math and Science Academy students built two small sailboats under guidance of mentors from LifeSail. The students launched the boats and sailed around Marina Del Rey harbor Friday, May 11, 2012. (Robert Casillas/Staff Photographer)

Darsy Hernandez balanced precariously on a Marina del Rey dock and winced as she prepared to step into a dinghy she helped build.

After all, she didn't know how to sail and it would only be her second time on a boat.

Hernandez, 17, was on a team of seven students that spent some Friday evenings and weekends for the past three months building 7-foot wooden sailboats at Hawthorne Math and Science Academy.

"I'm kind of anxious right now. I don't want to fall in. This water's kind of murky," said Hernandez, a senior who hopes to study theater arts in college. One of her teammates held her hand as she bounced into the green dinghy.

Hernandez cheered, "Oh yeah! I got this!" when she realized the boat wouldn't tip her into the water. "Let's do this! Oh Lord."lifesail2

The team built two vessels, the Eagle and the Optimus Prime, which were launched for their maiden voyages in Marina del Rey's harbor Friday afternoon.

The Ventura-based LifeSail program provided the students' first sailing experience. The program was brought to Hawthorne Math and Science Academy courtesy of a $5,000 grant from the Hawthorne Police Officers Association.

"We just wanted to get the kids in our community to get a broader look at what's going on in Hawthorne. We think this program is going to open up their eyes and get them looking at some other opportunities," said Detective Chris Port, an HPOA board member. "It's letting the community know we're here not only to police the community, but to open up opportunities for kids in town."

Like Soap Box Derby cars, Optimist boats - the kind built in this project - were designed to teach life skills to beginning sailors. LifeSail's mission is to teach character-building and discipline skills through sailing, construction and seamanship.

Students who signed up for LifeSail not only had to give up their free time after school, but they had to write an essay to apply to the program. They also have to write a paper about the experience.

"It was a lot of work," said Bridget Flores, a senior. "I wanted to do it because it's a new experience. In Hawthorne, there's not much opportunity to do this."

Serratia Krank, 16, learned that she has a knack for sawing wood.

"I wanted a new experience. When I was little I went on a ferry at Disneyland but I've never been on the sea," Krank said of why she applied for the LifeSail program. "I learned I'm really good at cutting things, I'm really accurate. But my clothes got stained."

Her father, Eugene Krank, proudly snapped pictures Friday of his daughter's first attempt at sailing.

"She's got the jump on me in sailing," he said. "Those types of skills are very valuable. It helps encourage her leadership and confidence."

LifeSail founder Matt Schulz worked with several instructors, including his son, Steven, to put the final touches on the boats Friday. They installed the masts and rudders for steering, and rigged the boats for sail.

Once they were in the water, students were taught how to sit comfortably in the awkward dinghy, how to maneuver the tillers and booms.

Denise Guzman, 17, was at first scared by the new experience but was already planning her next voyage when she got back on land.

"I couldn't believe I was sailing a boat," Guzman said. "It had scary moments where I felt like the boat was going to go to its side. As I got the hang of it, it became easy. I love it, I want to do it again."

Students will be able to return to LifeSail's dock at Marina del Rey to practice their sailing skills.

"It takes a lot of self-taught skill, there's only so much I can tell the kids. The rest is them developing it," instructor Steven Shulz said. "Whether it's seeing how the wind moves on the water or controlling the sail."

On Friday, though they worried they might move the tiller left instead of right, or throw the boats off balance, the students glided swiftly around the harbor in the small sailboats. No one fell in. Their instructors, school administrators and school board members watched proudly from the dock.

Bryan Cano, a junior and one of only two boys in the program, was thrilled by the adventure.

"I want to look back when I'm older and look at what I did here. Maybe one day I can sail a bigger boat," he said. "It's just peaceful on the ocean."


Students from the Hawthorne Math and Science Academy prepare sails for the two sailboats they built in an extracurricular program funded by the Hawthorne Police Officers Association. (Robert Casillas/Staff Photographer)