SailFuture Provides Homes, Education, and Experiences for Foster Youth

23 June 2021

SailFuture is a comprehensive child welfare agency and private school based in St. Petersburg, Florida. The organization innovates and develops effective programs for high-risk youth, particularly youth in foster care, including the opportunity to participate in month-long sailing expeditions which reinforce life skills and vocational training. 

Florida Community Loan Fund has provided financing for the purchase and renovation of 2 group homes for SailFuture, and another recent loan helped purchase a 35,000 sq-ft school building - formerly the Norwood School in St. Petersburg – and transform it to provide year-round hands-on education for up to 200 students. Learn more about FCLF and SailFuture here. 

A Tampa Bay Times article published on June 16, 2021, gives us a closer look into the school and the youth helped by the programs at SailFuture. Click here to read the Tampa Bay Times article, or read the text of the article below.


SailFuture school exterior Tiny private school aims to boost struggling Pinellas teens

The program will focus on giving students career skills in a real-life environment.

Tampa Bay Times • by Jeffrey S. Solochek • Published June 16, 2021

Cameron Auclair remembers his first two years attending a Pinellas County district high school mostly for his time not there.

“I passed the first half” of ninth grade, the 16-year-old recalled. “It went down from there. ... I didn’t end up going to school. I just didn’t like it.”

After two years of that, he found his way to SailFuture, a tiny private school that focused on delivering its lessons through real-world boating experiences. Cameron thrived, and he’s now a rising senior.

“This changed me,” he said, explaining that he was motivated to attend regularly and make good grades. “I took a chance. It paid off.”

Now SailFuture’s founders hope to make a difference in more teens’ lives, particularly those who live in underserved communities and have yet to find their education path. They’re expanding the program into a year-round private high school, based in the old Norwood School on 27th Avenue N in St. Petersburg.

It will start with a ninth-grade class and grow from there, with a target of 54 students, most of whom will attend using the state’s expanded school voucher or tax credit scholarship system. It aims to grow to 200 students within four years.

“We’ve been a school for three years, primarily for youth that live in our residential programs,” founder Mike Long said. “We felt as though that particular group of students needed a very different approach to their education. ... We realized it’s not just for kids in foster care. If we can create an experience for the community at large, it could do a lot of good.”

Rather than focus on traditional classroom instruction, the school plans to give students hands-on projects in areas such as electronics, boating and construction.

“We take a subject that your average ninth- or 10th-grade student wouldn’t care about, and say you need to understand this theory,” Long explained.

Why? Because they will put the textbook knowledge to use with things like a solar-powered robot, or a 150-foot yacht. The ultimate goal is to empower the students to find financial independence through their learning of practical skills and problem-solving opportunities, said head of school Lindsay Danielson Rapuano. She stressed that SailFuture is not a technical or vocational school. Rather, she said, it’s a different approach to learning the materials in meaningful ways that lead the teens to see they can succeed independently in life.

The model includes a year-round calendar, in which students attend for six-week terms — sometimes completely away from campus on learning endeavors — followed by two-week breaks. Teachers will get guaranteed vacation time and joint planning sessions so they can collaborate. It also will be a gradeless school, with students and parents instead getting detailed feedback about the areas where they’ve done well and where they’ve struggled in meeting state academic standards, as well as industry and career certification requirements.

“A-B-C-D does not do that,” Long said.

The school will have a system to calculate grade point averages for college admissions, he added, but the students’ primary measure of success will come from those interactions with their teachers. Students also will be grouped into “crews” of eight for their lessons and projects. 

Cameron said SailFuture’s hands-on model made classes seem more important and worthwhile to him. The gradeless report cards also made it easier for him to understand how he’s performing.

“I feel like the A’s and B’s are not a good way to look at it,” he said. With the reviews, “I know what I need to work on and how I need to improve.”

Overall, Cameron said he found himself a better person by attending SailFuture, learning life skills such as patience and hard work alongside the academic lessons that tie into future experiences. He’s considering two paths after graduation — engineering or boat captain.

His recommendation to potential students: “Give it a chance. Life is taking risks, and this one will pay off.”

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Greater Heights offers new, safe, affordable rental homes in what was formerly a high crime area.
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Rep. Daniel Webster visited FCLF staff.
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FCLF Chief Lending Officer visits with the Executive Director of Neighbor Up (formerly BNDC)
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FCLF supporter, the Northern Trust Company, hosted a housing roundtable in Sarasota.
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ASPIRA of Florida offers education & mentoring with a focus on low-income and Latino students.
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Emma Jewel Charter Academy offers education for the whole child in Brevard County.
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FCLF Staff meet and greet friends at an FLACDC event.
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FCLF projects create jobs and stimulate development in low-income communities.
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FCLF financing to Housing Programs, Inc. helps provide affordable homes for ownership.
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FCLF Board Members represent our investors, borrowers, and technical experts.
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FCLF and the NMTC Program renovated a historic building into a small business incubaor.
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Rep. Ander Crenshaw visited KIPP Jacksonville School
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FCLF projects create jobs and stimulate development in low-income communities.
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TD Charitable Foundation and TD Bank have supported FCLF's mission since 2006.
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FCLF CEO and one of our supporters visit the ASPIRA Arts Deco school.
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FCLF staff are active at statewide conferences and events.
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FCLF staff with local supporters at Metropolitan Ministries Tampa.
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Support from Valley Bank helps FCLF build strong communities.
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FCLF and NMTC are creating a new facility for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County
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Neighbor Up, formerly BNDC, offers affordable housing in Brevard County.
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DuPuis Pointe offers affordable, hurricane proof homes in Miami.
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Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, financed the land for farmworker rental housing with FCLF.
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FCLF Financing to Neighbor Up Brevard helps provide affordable rental housing.
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FCLF Staff are on hand at conferences and events to discuss our programs.
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New rental homes are available for farmworker families at Casa San Juan Bosco.
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The RCRI Conference allows FCLF staff to touch base with our religious supporters.
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The duPont Fund used FCLF and NMTC Financing to revitalize downtown Jacksonville.
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Support from Axiom Bank helps FCLF build strong communities.
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Residents at Neighborhood Renaissance's Mathis Place enjoy affordable rent.
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FCLF staff and US Legislative staff at an event honoring Youth of the Year.
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Support from TD Bank Charitable Foundation helps FCLF build strong communities.
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Nutritious snacks are a part of the healthy focused curriculum at Emma Jewel Charter Academy.
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Core Purpose FCLF exists to maximize opportunities for people and places outside of the economic mainstream.
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