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Semester [Sometimes] at Sea

Southern suns and sky blue waters decorate the perfect Friday afternoon. At the University of Miami, there is an elective students are eligible to take the spring of their first year. Among presentations and projects in what is commonly referred to as the hardest semester students have the opportunity to break free from the confines of their desks and sail Biscayne's wondrous shore.

keel boat in water, girl waving, three passengers

Shake-a-Leg Miami is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing children & adults with physical, developmental and economic challenges opportunity to explore aquatic activities such as sailing, swimming and kayaking. UMDPT's partnership with SAL provides students the opportunity to learn to sail with guidance from skippers with physical disabilities. As students, our role is to assist with transferring the skippers as needed. As skippers, their role is to teach us the ropes. Literally. We learned to tie knots, man the jib, tact and jibe across beautiful Biscayne Bay.

four people standing on dock in front of boats

During my first year, Shake-A-Leg became a haven on Friday afternoons. Away from stress, books and tests I found peace on the water. I was able to bond with classmates, and meet plenty of inspiring skippers. The most rewarding part about the class was the opportunity to get to know the skippers better and hear their stories and perspectives. They provided insights on day to day living with a disability. And, shared stories of experiences that provided me with enhanced awareness of how to communicate most effectively.

This past semester, I had another wonderful opportunity. I, along with three of my classmates, were the Sports and Leisure Graduate Assistants. I continued to develop my communication skills and relished in watching my SPT1 cohorts doing the same. As a GA, I greatly enjoyed watching the evolution of timid students to enthusiastic sailors taking initiative.

One of these evolutionary days takes place at a ropes course. The students participate in 3 different ground activities & then are able to go on to high activities addressing fears of heights and letting go. As a GA, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them navigate through various solutions and support each other.

It truly was a joy to watch them succeed through laughter and smiles.

I, too, got to participate in the fun as a silent member of the group.

The course final takes place at an island a four hour sail away from Shake-a-Leg headquarters. Students take full responsibility for the camp out - planning menus, sleeping quarters and campfire fun for the whole group. Two years in a row, we've seen a magnificent sun set with a belly full of delicious food and a crackling fire behind us. At the end of the day we come together to play games, share secret fun facts about ourselves and laugh together: memories & connections that go deeper than the ocean.

For more information about Shake a Leg, Miami:

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