Local non-profit SailFuture created and directed by thesis-student Michael Long has been chosen as one of 32 organizations to compete in a fundraising competition sponsored by Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU), a student-focused expansion of the Clinton Global Initiative which convenes global leaders in an effort to find innovative solutions to contemporary issues.
CGIU hosts an annual event where young leaders come together with celebrities, politicians, entrepreneurs and experts to share ideas and passions. In order to attend the event, each team must submit a Commitment to Action, a brief statement of intent that outlines the goals of each project.
SailFuture began as a creative way to reach out to at-risk youth in the Sarasota area. As the only youth intervention program in Sarasota closed, Long realized that there was an unmet need for rehabilitative youth services. SailFuture connects at-risk students from Booker High School with mentors from the community, often New College students or young Sarasota professionals.
Students have a GPA under 1.5 and often have histories of behavioral misconduct and family trauma. As the students and mentors are both thrust into an overwhelming and new situation– manning a sailboat with virtually no instruction – they find strength and create bonds. Long added that college campuses provide the perfect environment in which to host a Sail Future program. Campuses have underutilized resources such as sailing equipment when sail teams are not using it, empty classrooms in which to hold classes and students who would be inspired to volunteer as mentors while learning how to sail.
The relationship between mentor and student is crucial to the SailFuture program. By pairing two people with the same sailing experience, SailFuture aims to place students and mentors on the same level, where neither can feel better than the other. This allows students to build confidence and learn crucial life lessons while learning to sail.
“Often our students will learn faster than the mentors do,” Long added.
SailFuture’s website mentions that their end goal is that all SailFuture students graduate high school, develop self-confidence, learn resilience and grit and create a family of supporters to lean on in the future.
In an effort to attend CGIU on Mar. 21-23 at Arizona State University and learn new innovative methods to expand their project, the SailFuture team committed to expand their current program by increasing their number of students and working on a new location at a different college campus.
This year, CGIU partnered with Crowdrise, an online crowdsourcing fundraising tool. Students from 32 teams of the 900 who applied were awarded special invitations to the Commitments Challenge, a fundraising competition which motivates teams to raise the most money and receive national recognition for their cause.
Without warning, the SailFuture team received an email informing them of their placement in the challenge less than a week before the competition began.
“We changed focus really fast,” first-year and SailFuture Mentor Coordinator Evan Murphy said.
Selections for the Commitments Challenge were made by the team at CGIU who chose commitments which were new, specific and measurable. According to director of CGIU Bill Wetzler, SailFuture’s commitment was chosen as one of 32 because it already has a working program which meets a specific needs and it can be expanded to reach more students and have a greater impact on the community. Commitments are expected to be measured and reported back to CGIU to track progress of the participating teams.
Winning the fundraising challenge would not only give SailFuture the crucial funding to expand their program, but provide them with national recognition that could help to expand the program.
“This would be a real game-changer for us,” Long said about the opportunity that would come with winning the competition.
SailFuture has already advanced to the third bracket of the challenge as part of the top eight and hopes to continue moving up in the competition by reaching out to the community for donations. As this issue went to press, SailFuture had already received over $3600 in donations from the first two rounds. If they advance one more bracket, they will automatically receive $1250 from Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist.org.
The winner of the Commitments Challenge will be announced by President Bill Clinton on Mar. 22 at CGIU.
Donations can be made to SailFuture at sailfuture.org.