BURNHAM HARBOR — Although Lake Michigan is just a few miles from their homes, a group of Chicago teens went sailing for the first time over the weekend, thanks to My Block My Hood My City.
The group took teens from the James Major Adams Community Committee, which offers youth programs at 125 N. Hoyne, on an exploration that kicked off from Burnham Harbor Saturday. The teens were instructed by experts of Carpe Ventus, a Chicago organization that does mentoring and teaches sailing, windsurfing and kiteboarding.
“It was fun being on the boat,” said 15-year-old Amari Walker. “I was scared at first.”
Shamar Thomas, 13, said he was “paranoid” the boat would tip over, but once he got on he had fun.
“I thought it was going to be hard, but it was easy and I would come back,” he said
The teens learned how to steer and tie a boat to the dock. They learned the names for parts of the sailboat like the bow and the stern, or front and back.
Carpe Ventus’ executive director Dave Foster said his organization introduces people to sailing through 45-minute introduction events. If they like it, they can sign up for lessons at his website www.carpeventus.com.
“One of the things we want to do is help people get access to the lake who don’t typically have access to [it],” Foster said.
He said sailing can be impactful because it is a memorable shared experience. “It’s something to refer back to,” he said.
For some, just going out on the water is also about overcoming fears, he said.
“For a lot of people who haven’t been on the water, it can feel very risky to step on,” Foster said. “If you’re going to get out of that microcosm it’s going to take a lot of risks. To go to school, apply to a different high school, get into college, go to college, even if it’s a community college in the area, it’s still a risk. Get into a career that’s something that no one you know has done, those are life-giving risks and that’s what we’re about.”
The teens’ program director Darryl Gillespie said he wanted his students to experience something new so he let them go out with the My Block My Hood My City group.
“As I watched them I got chills because at first they were kind of timid, but once they got the hang of it, you could see the joy on their face,” Gillespie said. “They were very excited and they embraced it a lot more.”
He said there was no doubt that his teens wouldn’t participate and give the activity their all.
“I call them gamers. They participate. You give them a challenge and they accept it, so today was a challenge for them and they embraced it wholeheartedly.”
Jahmal Cole, the founder of My Block My Hood My City, and also a Chatham resident, said he wants to do more activities with the young people this summer. Last month they participated in a downtown crossfit class. The sailing opportunity came up because someone came to his pop-up shop and connected him with Foster.
Cole usually takes teens from the South and West sides to explore neighborhoods in other parts of the city they haven't been to.
“A lot of the teenagers haven’t been on a boat before, let alone a sailboat,” Cole said. “We’re planting seeds. I don’t know how they’re going to sprout, but we’re planting them so now they can say they did it and go back and tell their friends, ‘You know what, Downtown isn’t as intimidating as I thought it was, being on a small sailboat isn’t as intimidating as I thought, we should do that, let’s go.’”
Other trips he’d like to make this summer include taking teens to Navy Pier to ride the new Ferris wheel and taking a helicopter ride.
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