Thanks to grants from an anonymous donor and The Gogian Foundation, POLAHS was able to send 12th graders Diana Zaragoza and Mitchell Smith on the Tole Mour Tall Ship - the largest sailing school vessel (SSV) on the West Coast – for a two-week long summer study at sea.
In their application, students were asked to describe their interest and qualifications for the $3,000 maritime scholarship. Here’s an excerpt from their thoughtful essays:
Mitchell: “I found my passion on the water. I started sailing with the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club when I was 12 years old. I’m an avid volunteer, teaching at-risk students how to sail. In 2012 I earned the Eagle Scout Award for my project with the Los Angeles Maritime Institute (LAMI). I moved their entire workshop to a new location because of port dredging. I’ve been on the POLAHS Sailing team for two years, and I’ll be applying to the California Maritime Academy to earn a college degree in Marine Transportation. I have a great work ethic and leadership skills.”
Diana: “I earned a 4.1 GPA last semester. I’ve passed Marine Biology and taken two trips to Catalina Island with the class. We learned a lot about marine life and the various ecosystems, such as coral reefs and kelp forests. And I can actually swim, which is of course important if I’m going to spend two weeks aboard the ship. Even more useful is my participation in the University of Southern California (USC) Sea Grant after-school program, where we assisted with algal bloom research around the port. We used a special net to collect plankton samples, and would assess them utilizing a microscope. Our findings were then reported to the USC lab. I’d really like to attend this trip, not for my college applications, but for the experience.”
Diana and Mitchell began each day aboard the Tole Mour at 6:00AM and attended classes in Marine Biology. They ran the ship with instruction from a professional crew, with stops from Long Beach to Santa Rosa. At night, they camped under the stars at each harbor along with students from all over the country.
Meanwhile, 11th grader Jeremy Bellman was studying Marine Biology on Catalina Island. He was one of 20 students nationwide selected to attend the University of Southern California (USC) Sea Grant Marine Lab. Jeremy spent seven days working alongside USC students – identifying native plant species, building Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) model submarines, and researching fish at different tides. “Our college counselors were really passionate about science, engineering, and robotics. I want to study these fields and care for the ocean now, too,” says Jeremy.
Congratulations, Diana, Mitchell, and Jeremy. Your summer studies were adventurous and inspiring!