Children enjoying learning kayak on one Catalina trip.
By Diana L. Chapman
Year after year, teams of kids ride over to Santa Catalina Island, where they learn to snorkel, identify different types of species of fish and native animals and see a lifestyle they’ve never witnessed before –island kind.
It’s almost a right-of-passage for scores of Los Angeles Unified School District fifth graders --before they graduate from elementary school --to attend Catalina Island Marine Institute. (CIMI).
But while some parents dig in their own pockets and hold fundraisers at schools in a more economically secure setting, Hawaiian Avenue Elementary students in Wilmington don’t have that advantage.
“We’ve been able to bring the cost down from $219 (per student) to $100, but even this is too much for our families,” as most of them live at or below the poverty explained Susan Prichard, a volunteer on the small PTA at the school.
Despite the uncertainty of the trip, that hasn’t stopped the kids from hoping and writing about the adventure or officials from searching for that someone – anyone – will step forward with financial help.
“I want to Catalina Island because I have never been to an island and I want it to be my first time there,” wrote student, Mariana. “I want to go on the boat because it will be a first time. I’ve never seen a dolphin.”
Wrote Alex about the potential upcoming “lifetime” chance: “I expect to be learning many things and to see many animals, and dolphins. We also get to camp outside and have lots of fun.”
Students and officials are coming to you -- and the Neighborhood Councils – for aide– and honestly this is something that should be granted to give these students an opportunity to witness an entirely different world from our clogged, dense urban terrain of asphalt and parking lots.
For $219, anyone can send one of these students over (or make a donation of any size) to help them witness the diamond gem of an island perched just 22 miles across from the mainland where fox and buffalo really do roam.
Because some of those kids haven’t even visit in the ocean – it’s a trip school officials don’t want them to miss – nor do I – as every child I know who has gone on this journey – including my own son and many of his friends – would not have missed it for the world.
My husband was a chaperon a few years back and believes every child “should have a shot” at this remarkable adventure.
But money, as usual is tripping up this special journey, which is scheduled from Feb. 23 to Feb. 25 and will be supervised by three teachers.
Wrote 5th grade student, Anais: “I have never been there and I want to explore it. It will be a good opportunity to study nature. I hope if we get to go to Catalina Island it will all turn out great.”
I’m sure, Anais, it truly will. The rest of us just have to get you there.
To help, call Hawaiian Avenue Elementary School and leave a message for Susan Prichard at 310-830-1151.