Last summer, Ted Zellmer, Jr. and Sara Rodriguez met by chance, on a bus.
When Sara, a varsity wrestler at Wilson High, shared her love of sports, Zellmer talked to her about youth sailing. Rodriguez said her intense enthusiasm apparently fueled Zellmer’s desire to help Long Beach students learn about and compete in sailing.
That seems a safe assumption since on Saturday, July 15, at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Zellmer launched the Galilee Institute Sailing and Seamanship Program. Sara and her twin sister, Sydney, were two of the first cadets to enroll.
The twins’ mother, Ronna Rizk, described the program as groundbreaking and said the family is all very excited.
“I really want to sail,” Rodriguez said. “My dream is to sail in college and become an Olympian. I was lost and on the wrong bus the day I met Ted, but it turned out right because I found something incredible.”
He sister Sydney said she has always loved the water and is eager to learn about sailing. Sydney said she is also interested to see what career options may develop through experiences at the Institute.
Zellmer and retired Navy sonar technician Mike Metal STG-2 (sw) founded the Galilee Institute to help youngsters develop sailing skills and give them exposure to possible career paths. Coast Guard and Navy officers were on hand for Saturday’s launch, as were representatives of the Boy Scouts and Boy Scout Explorers.
By working with these groups, Zellmer and Metal said they plan to give youth a glimpse into opportunities beyond the realm of their everyday lives. Students between the ages of 14 and 18 will have dual immersion in the Institute and the Boy Scout Explorers; the Galilee Institute has already been named Explorer Post #211.
Exploring coordinator Rosa Talag said, “This is wonderful. We haven’t had a post like this before. Explorer posts give students an opportunity to explore careers; the experience can reinforce an interest or help a kid discover that it’s not the right path to follow. Either way, posts give kids valuable information.”
This summer, Galilee Institute cadets will learn about port operations at the Port of Long Beach, explore marine safety with the Long Beach Fire Department and Port Police, tour the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, board an aircraft carrier at the LA Waterfront, visit the Long Beach Sewage Treatment Plant, and tour the USS Iowa.
Maleka Long, the founder and president of nonprofit Love Beyond Limits, is the director of education for the Galilee Institute. Love Beyond Limits helps bridge the gap between student mentoring and family dynamics. Long said she will bring this same connective mentality to Galilee, making sure cadet parents are informed and engaged.
Zellmer and Metal are building funding to support student scholarship. Metal said he wants motivated youngsters to be able to participate in the program, regardless of family finances.
“I grew up in poverty,” the Navy veteran said, “and now I have two master’s degrees. Kids should be able to look beyond their neighborhoods and pursue their interests.”
Metal acknowledged that students in aquatic careers must be water-safe. He spoke about water skills with swimming guru Rick Azevedo, former Olympic water polo coach and Zellmer's long-time friend.
Drawing on many years of experience in the water, Azevedo said that water safety skills can be taught quickly. He presented a range of suggestions and offered implementation assistance.
“I don’t dwell on problems,” Azevedo said, “I pursue solutions.”
Azevedo expressed his love for Long Beach and his desire to help youngsters.
“Long Beach is an aquatic city, so it makes sense to develop a range of aquatic events here … it’s the perfect environment," he said. "When Ted told me about Galilee, I said I’d be happy to endorse and support this program. If it’s youth development, I’m interested.”
For more information, go to galileeinstitute.org.