While Cal Maritime Academy (CMA) students are away for summer – on a two-month intensive maritime training cruise – high school students from Oakland and San Francisco fill their seats.
They come to the Vallejo-based Cal State University campus for Summer Academic Enrichment Program (SAEP), a six-week preparation program and partnership with the ACE Mentor Program for selected high school students interested in careers and college educations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“Students go back and say to their principals that they are better off, that they feel more comfortable,” said Director Howard Jackson on how students leave SAEP with more confidence in their academic abilities.
Every weekday, student participants work in and out of the classroom from roughly 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., taking classes in English, math, engineering and more. They eat in campus’ waterfront dining facilities and sleep in the dorms. SAEP also exposes students to maritime sports like crew, and swim classes are incorporated into weekly schedules.
Jackson, who is a retired marine, said that in addition to academic training, the 42-night residential program is “like going to college early.”
Now in its 16th year, SAEP also introduces students to real jobs in STEM fields by inviting guest speakers to talk about what opportunities exist and what it takes to get there.
“Just working at the Port of Oakland, I have had exposure to the rail industry, the aviation industry, and I’m also working with the community,” Port of Oakland employee Yen Kelly told students on Tuesday during a guest lecture.
Kelly, who graduated from CMA in 2012 and now works as Assistant Management Analyst for the Port of Oakland, said maritime business is “not an industry that is well-known” despite controlling nearly 90 percent of global trade.
She also emphasized the importance of increasing diversity and representation of people of color in the field.
Jackson said that the void relates to how in the past, minorities were “not invited” to work in the maritime industry unless it involved truck driving. SAEP attempts to change that by preparing youth of color for competitive careers both on land and sea.
In recent years, however, critical decreases in funding have forced program coordinators to cut various aspects of the program.
For instance, with participation costing nearly $4,500 per student, SEAP could only afford to support nine students this year. Jackson said previous years typically brought in 25-30 students.
To increase participation again, Jackson and SAEP recruiter and instructor Tom Scott said they are searching for funding beyond what organizations such as the Oakland Unified School District and San Francisco Public Works provide.