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2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Los Angeles Maritime Institute

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Crime & Law, Human Services, Marine Science & Oceanography, Recreation & Sports, Sports, Technology, Youth Violence Prevention

Mission: The Los Angeles Maritime Institute (LAMI) serves to empower youth to discover their greater potential through extraordinary at-sea experiences aboard the tall ships Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson. Sail training uses the experience of being at sea, as part of the ship's crew, as a means to help youth learn about themselves, discover hidden strengths and talents, understand the value of working as a team, and develop 21st century leadership skills.

Results: Sail training requires youth to confront many demanding challenges, both physical and emotional. It inspires self-confidence and personal responsibility. It promotes an acceptance of others whatever their social or cultural backgrounds, and develops a willingness to take controlled risks. For most youth who undertake sail training on a Tall Ship, it is a positive life-changing experience. Since our founding in 1993, we have served more than 60,000 youth in under-served communities throughout the Greater Los Angeles Area with transformational experiences at sea.

Target demographics: young people develop the problem solving and leadership skills needed for adult life, and discover maritime and marine biology career paths.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 3,500 youth

Geographic areas served: Title 1 schools and socio-economically challenged communities throughout Los Angeles County.

Programs: TopSail Youth Program, Student Ocean Scientist Program, Science at Sea Programs, Volunteer Youth Crew Program, Boat Building Program, Adventure Learning Voyages to Channel Islands.

Community Stories

38 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

When I was in 7th grade I sailed LAMI's brigantine, Exy Johnson on a four day voyage to Catalina Island. Although at first this may sound like a cruise on a yacht, in reality it is the complete opposite. Students become the crew and preform the duties of sailing a traditional sailing vessel. With the ship's 13 sails and a spider web of rigging, it is no easy task to get the boat moving. Under the direction of LAMI's professional crew, it is entirely possible though. I vividly remember first looking up at the masts and being in complete awe but also very overwhelmed. On our voyage, my peers and I were given opportunities to succeed and recover from failures. We learned how to overcome daunting challenges. We learned how to work as a team (even if we did not always get along). We learned to push our limits both mentally and physically. We learned that putting in 100% effort to a common cause has virtue. We were taught how to take on responsibility, and craved it. We learned to teach each other and to lend a hand when a fellow crew member struggled. Sailing a brigantine is HARD work. I fell asleep instantly every night in my bunk but was eager to wake up early with my friends to scrub the deck and prepare breakfast.By the end of the voyage the rig became far less daunting. I leaned a few of the lines, knew how to furl a square sail 80ft. above the deck and understood when to tie certain knots. Feeling handy and deck gave me a tremendous amount of confidence. I walked away from the boat on our last day feeling good about what I was capable of. LAMI helped me develop imperative skills that I will use throughout my entire life. I came away from LAMI loving tall ships. There is something about it that I just can't fully describe on a keyboard. Needless to say, it quickly became a passion and obsession. About a year after my life changing voyage with LAMI, I joined the professional crew of a topsail schooner in San Diego where I honed in my sailing skills. I have worked for a handful of marvelous sailboats since and will be applying for a captains license by the end of 2016. For me, LAMI not only taught me many skills that I will use throughout my life but also set me on a pathway that could quite possibly turn into my career. I can not think of four days that had nearly as much meaning as my time with LAMI.

Sammy Lyon

Client Served

Rating: 5

We've been working with LAMI TopSail the last few years and love what they are doing! Students at our Environmental Charter middle and high schools have gone sailing with them from 6th graders doing team building activities to 12th graders trawling the ocean for plastics research. They also host weekend family sails and educator sails to get all sorts of folks out on these beautiful ships! Very nice staff, super flexible, and as a teacher I can't be more grateful to have a partner like LAMI!

Milly R.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My son was initially the one who was going to do the Youth Crew Trainings on Saturdays but when I attended the orientation I was given more info as to how I could also participate!! I am sooooooo glad I did!! We both have been a part of LAMI for over a year now and not only do my son and I bond but it has taught us so much! As a single mother I am always looking for ways to be a positive influence on my boy. This is by far one of the best programs in SoCal and I am so grateful to everyone who takes part in helping teens. Not only that, but they also help the at-risk-youth. LAMI gives all teens an opportunity to see and experience something new... get them out of the norm and I am very happy to be a part of the volunteers! I would definitely like to see other parents whose primary language is not english be educated on all the benefits their teen can get from LAMI. It's very rewarding to know that you can make a difference in others in such a fun and positive way!

1 grnlight

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Let me start off by saying, I really enjoy volunteering with this organization. I was skeptical at first, as I signed up a few years ago, I was not sure I had it in me. I started volunteering with LAMI in 2013. I have made good friends along the way and even introduced a few to the program. I soon got really familiar with the brigantines, the ships crew and most importantly the outlook of the program. I then became, part of the volunteer crew, still getting my hands and feet wet. I became more confident in myself as part of the crew to show the youth of today that education is more important for them then just being mind boggled with computer games, and just hanging out doing nothing productive. This program works with LAUSD, and other programs that involve youth. Educating them about the ships aren't the only things they learn. Its about teamwork, character, confidence building, that each individual learns.
I was offered a position for the Tall Ships Festival as Ships Liaison Officer in 2014, and thanks to LAMI I was able to continue more of my knowledge with Tall ships, the Port of Los Angeles, the education aspect of the program. I still volunteer occasionally, when my time allows. I still learn new things when I volunteer with the LAMI program, captains, and crew.

1 Ralph-LAMI

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Los Angeles Maritime Institute gives me a chance to share my love for wind and sail with at-risk children some of which have not seen the ocean much less sailed. We teach kids the physics if sailing, onboard systems, working aloft, navigation, marine bio, environmental science, teamwork, etc.

I first sailed on a tallship 20+ years ago off the coast of Maine. LAMI gives me a chance to continue my study and give back.

LAMI has licensed captains, qualified staff in admin and volunteerism, all of which make us feel welcome and that culture makes us work hard so the children feel safe and comfortable.

I was also able to introduce my own young teenage children to sailing. What a gift LAMI allows me to pay my love forward.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have sailed with LAMI for about 9 years, since I was 10. Starting out with youth sails, I developed a love for the activity and grew to going up to as many as 6 sails a month with adults and schools. Being home schooled, it helped me be able to go out more often. The biggest outcome I take from LAMI are the friendships that I was able to develop with the other kids.

Mark222

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I teach inner-city Marine biology in Los Angeles. The LA maritime Institute gave some of my students in our Marine biology class and also members of our Marine biology club an opportunity, free of charge, to participate in several days of activities on board their tall ships.
These inner-city youth would never have had this unique opportunity. This is an organization that should be generously funded so that they can continue to give inner-city youth especially experiences on board a tall ship where they not only learn hands-on and leadership skills but also navigation and Marine science.
MFriedman

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer crew member for about 14 months. Sailing with LAMI is a fantastic experience. We have the boat, the ocean, the sun (or rain), and we are surrounded by captain and crew members who are knowledgeable, happy and having a wonderful time. As a volunteer crew member, I'm learning more with every sail, and I'm helping kids to learn too.

I recommend LAMI to everyone who loves tall ships, because volunteers can work and sail on a tall ship. At the same time, they are helping kids to expand their horizons while experiencing the magic of teamwork.

Gregory17

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was volunteer crew for several years with LAMI. The staff is fantastic. It was always amazing to see the transformation of the school kids who trained with us. The kids often came on board tentative and shy, but after learning about the ship, taking on the responsibility of being part of the crew, and working together as a team, they left full of pride and confidence in their newfound skills. The ships and the program offer a one of a kind experience and is transformative.

Former staff

Rating: 5

I worked as an AB/deckhand for LAMI in 2005-2006. I was a green deckhand with lots of excitement but little knowledge or experience. I think LAMI gave me the experience I needed not just for my career (I am a small charter boat captain) but also for life. I learned attention to detail and the importance of hard work and doing your assigned task. But the job was fun! I got to climb masts and set sails with excited kids! Combining work ethic with that important sense of excitement and fun makes everything my job and life is today. I still have an Irving Johnson T-shirt (a bit worn out) and a turkshead on my ankle, and I still wear them with pride.

Art K.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I began volunteering with LAMI after my son's science class took a week long voyage. He had so much fun that I had to join in. He continued with the Youth Crew and I became a crew member.

The education that the kids (trainees!) get can't be found anywhere else. It's not simply the science lessons like physics or astronomy or geometry, but the life lessons. Learning to plan and prepare meals for a lot of people, for instance. The best lessons are the personal ones like self-confidence (climbing the rigging there's nobody but you and the ship), team work (it takes a lot of people to manage the sails and get underway) and responsibility (standing watch at 2AM, or steering the ship.)

Jocelyn H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

LAMI TopSail is a great non-profit! It's geared towards helping students from elementary to high school build self confidence and learn skills that they can carry with them through life. I really admire their passion and dedication. Since being here I've experienced nothing but kindness and encouragement. I am a single mother with a little boy of my own, so I would definitely consider taking my son on a sail or sending him to spend a weekend learning the ways of the sea. I feel that LAMI is very important for kids because they not only teach skills on how to work on a team, leadership, self-sufficiency, communication, and many more but they are very environmentally friendly and working towards conserving the ocean. There is a lot of collaboration between LAMI and other organizations to make the community and the ocean a better place for everyone. I'm very happy that I've gotten the opportunity to work with everyone here. :)

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

LAMI is based in my home town, and I started sailing as a student at 14. Through high school, I spent the bulk of my summers sailing and volunteering through the youth crew program. That time away from school, shore and parents, working so hard with great people; was what kept me in my home town for the rough points of high school. Essentially, my great, angsty, teenage rebellion became sailing with this wonderful alternate family, and I am so lucky for the experience. I'm now finishing up a graduate degree at Northwestern University, and I doubt I would have traveled the same path if I had never gone sailing.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been a volunteer with LAMI for nearly 3 years. In that time I've observed the effect the program has on often surly or reserved youths, sure they "know it all". When confronted by the Brigantines, with their mass of confusing lines, new language and unfamiliar tasks, this organization quickly transforms these youths into eager participants. We very quickly can see the kids who are eager to learn, to take the helm, challenge themselves to go aloft, to try something new, to step into a leadership position and "lead" a team tacking sails or preparing a meal. It's an analogy for life; you can choose to participate, or you can choose to observe. The Brigantines Irving and Exy Johnson allow all participants, whether youth crew or adult volunteers, to find exhilerating new opportunities for personal growth in a wonderfully unique environment. From seeing dolphins cavorting at the bow of the ship, to going aloft or taking the wheel, to just being on a boat for the first time and experiencing natures bounty, the Brigantines of the Los Angeles Maritime Institute are the vehicles for opening windows into a whole new world for the youths that have the opportunity to sail with us.
This is an invaluable organization providing countless happy memories and educational moments to the youth of Los Angeles. I strongly encourage support of this fantastic organization!

1 Amy_175

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is one of the most effective youth programs I have ever seen!

I can't count how many youth I've seen turn from borderline angry when they came on deck, to peaceful teenagers with more perspective on their lives, when they left. And all inside a single day...

There is something very special going on at LAMI, whose traditions I hope will continue for years to come. How I hope I can conrtibute to the on-going community service that blooms at LAMI!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have worked with kids, in the school setting, for about 17 years. Although I have always found my work rewarding, I was looking for a different opportunity to support our youth. I just recently started volunteering with LAMI and have been absolutely blown away at the positive impact this group makes every day. In large part, I attribute this to the passion and dedication of the organizers, coordinators, and boat crews. Top notch all the way.

Best of all, they are planting seeds of success that will sprout for generations.

Mike V.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

LAMI has captivated our heart for a long long time... their amazing work and their amazing spirit flows on the waves of the Pacific... We are so lucky to have been involved in several occasions with you guys, thanks for the friendship, thanks for the community involvement, thanks for your high spirit...
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Marcia + Jorge Vismara

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered for LAMI full-time for six months and I couldn't have spent my time a better way. The people who work for LAMI are dedicated, intelligent, and really interested in the education of young people. On the voyages we took out to sea I noticed a huge difference in the attitude, confidence, and energy of the kids within a few days of leaving port. Many of them didn't want to leave a the end of the week, and we hated to see them go (until a new group arrived!). The mentoring and skill-building that happens with this organization is unique among educational institutions that I've seen. I would work with LAMI again anytime I'm in the Los Angeles area.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I served aboard the tall ship Lady Washington during the winter of 2008-09, and with our sister ship the Hawaiian Chieftain one of our ports of call was at LAMI in Los Angeles. I say 'port of call' but LAMI became our second home for several weeks during the winter school break. We double-moored before the LAMI offices, both ships together, and those are some of the fondest memories of my life.

LAMI worked with us to bring in the public and the schoolchildren that we served, fed us, threw us roving sailors a beautiful Christmas and New Year's, gave us use of their shower and took us for a spin on the Lexi Johnson when we felt so cooped up in our own ships we were fit to burst. I learned to make a monkey's fist there, how to sing Mingulay. And one of my shipmates was a graduate of LAMI's program, one of the best sailors and one of the best men you could ever hope to know. If he's what LAMI produces...then LAMI isn't just a good organization to work with, or a good organization for sailors, it's a good organization for our country and the world.

3 Chris156

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been volunteering with LAMI for four and a half years. The program gives the children and teenagers we work with practical skills, real responsibilities and essential experience in what community means.

I am sometimes discouraged with what our society offers kids: slogans like "No Fear," or blood-and-thunder movies that equate courage and swagger. I think lots of times, we give kids little chance to find out what they can and can't do or to learn how to do things, and then when they flounder on their own, we blame them.

LAMI gives kids the structured, orderly chance to learn about themselves and the world in very practical ways. The ships are beautiful, but they're not spectacles: they're working machines. Some of the kids are afraid to go aloft at first, but they learn that nobody's forcing them. There's plenty of useful work to do on deck. If they do climb, nobody will disrespect them if they decide to come down, and if they stay up, the very reasonable fear of falling is a tool they can use to take necessary precautions and keep themselves and their shipmates safe in order to do the work aloft. They learn to care for the machine and their shipmates in other ways, from coiling lines properly to preparing and cleaning up meals to cleaning the heads. They learn to use their hands, and also to follow orders, because we're a team. There's a chain of command based on skills. It really doesn't matter how old you are or what you do ashore: what counts is commitment to the ship and seamanship. The kids learn to live by the old seagoing rule of first the ship, then one's shipmates, then oneself.

My son grew up in Youth Crew. When he was little, he had problems with depth perception that could make him afraid to walk down a flight of stairs. But a couple weeks ago, while we were furling after a day of sailing, I glanced over and saw him almost horizontal in space about 40 feet over the deck, his foot braced against a footrope, pressing his body hard against the yard as he secured a clew lashing. Needless to say, he's comfortable and competent aloft. I was proud of him, but the really great thing about it was that it wasn't an extraordinary moment. What he was doing was just part of the work of furling. I was proud of him, but more importantly, I was and am sure of him. We've always had a good relationship; LAMI made us shipmates.

I've seen others benefit enormously from this program. Our mission statement says that we work with "at risk" kids, a term I've never been entirely comfortable with because I think we're all at risk, but still, some of the groups we take out on day sails or several-day trips do come from pretty rocky backgrounds, with drug-addicted parents or from gang-plagued neighborhoods. Over and over again, I've seen kids make little changes in themselves over the course of a day or so. I've seen them gain confidence and, in little ways, start to grow up.

I only wish more of them came back, because those changes take time and repetition to become a permanent part of a person's character. I think one of the reasons some don't continue has to do with funding. It would be great to be able to subsidize more transportation to and from the ships and scholarships for trips, and to wrap up repairs on our topsail schooner so that we can offer more programs.