From the desk of Dawn Santamaria
Sisters Under Sail is a program born from a mother’s heart and from a family’s real life experience in owning a tall ship.
Even though I’ve lived in New Jersey for over 30 years, I still consider myself a mid-westerner. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and attended Saint Mary’s College, an all-female school across the street from The University of Notre Dame. My Saint Mary’s experience first taught me to appreciate other young women for their brilliance; for their hunger to make a difference in the world and the rewards of true friendship.
As a working mother of four daughters ranging in age from 27 to 13 and standing at the helm of Sisters Under Sail for 8 years, you could say my belief in the power of the “sisterhood” has become the very fiber of my soul.
In 1999, my husband decided to follow his dream. He wanted to become a Schooner-man. So we bought a 110-foot tall ship. I must admit, I was a bit envious that he was so clearly able to identify his dream. At that point in time, my kids were still young; I was busy with their little lives and had no idea, nor the time, to contemplate dreams of my own.
As fate would have it, owning the Unicorn has been the vehicle to finding my own dream. A dream for myself that I never knew I had and a mother’s dreams come true for my children.
My own girls have been a part of our family tall ship business for 13 years. They’ve served aboard Unicorn as trainees, deckhands, education coordinators; offered hours of public deck tours and sold a ton of t-shirts. They have represented us in Washington DC on Capitol Hill and provided hours of administrative support in my office. Now they sit on our Sisters Board of Trustees, write press releases, blogs and online material for Sisters. Through the years, I have watched my girls develop a sense of self, take pride in their accomplishments, confidently present themselves, lead on the sports field, demonstrate tolerance of and compassion towards others. They appreciate and respect the sea and the natural beauty around them, take responsibility for others when needed and possess a keen ability to think outside the box….not to limit their abilities. What more could a mother ask for in her children?
It was through my daughters’ experiences that I decided to initiate a leadership program designed exclusively for teenage girls. I wanted to provide other girls the same opportunity to sail a tall ship in a safe learning environment where they could push themselves to try new things they had never done before. I wanted to take young women on a voyage of self-discovery connecting the dots between their shipboard experience and how that experience translates to real-life lessons, making good choices and how those choices pay off in the end.
As such, in 2005 Sisters Under Sail was founded as a non-profit, 501(c)3 corporation. Since inception, we’ve put aboard over 450 girls from all over the country and Canada. We enroll girls much like my daughters as well as serve under-represented teens who are making those good choices, but need and deserve leadership opportunities and our support.
By design to walk the talk, we are the only tall ship in the world that sails with an all-female crew. We want to be good role models, foster empowerment and give young women the chance to see what we women can do together when focused on a common goal.
I promise you, this is a confidence-building, hands on learning experience that will remain with your daughter for years to come.
Stay on course.
Founder & Executive Director