Alysha Bacus doesn't have any boating experience, but that's not stopping her from going on a 10-month "school at sea."
This Tuesday, the 17-year-old will embark on a 10-month sailing trip with 39 other classmates - or first mates - in a program called Class Afloat. She will complete her senior year of high school on a 1927 Norwegian ship while stopping at 20 ports on four continents.
"I'm super excited - it still doesn't quite feel real," she said. "I don't think it will feel real until I get there and see the ship."
The Now interviewed her in January, at which point she had raised more than $16,000, in addition to $10,000 from her parents. Now she's just $3,000 shy of paying off her tuition and travel expenses, estimated at $50,000.
So how did she raise more than $20,000 in eight months? She had a little help.
"I got a $9,000 scholarship from Class Afloat," said Bacus, who only learned about the scholarship in May. "I wasn't expecting anything - I had talked beforehand to people who were doing the program and I'm like, 'These people are all amazing, there's no way I'm going to get a scholarship,' and it turned out I did."
Her grandparents also chipped in $3,000, but what made up most of the difference was the sale of chocolates - a lot of chocolates - plus mowing lawns and recycling cans and bottles.
She's all set for her first semester onboard, and there's no doubt in her mind that she'll cover the rest of her studies, including law, English, biology, anthropology, global history and math.
"In regular school, some kids will take wood shop or art," she said. "You don't really
get those options - you're taking academic courses for the most part, but I like that."
Bacus and the other lucky few selected for the trip created a Facebook group so they could discuss the trip leading up to its departure next week. The students come from around the world, including Germany, Switzerland, Norway and Mexico.
The crew meets in Collingwood, Ont. and sails up the St. Lawrence River, with stops in Windsor and Montreal. From there, they cross the Atlantic to Portugal, Spain, Canary Islands, Senegal, then back across for a break between semesters in Barbados.
After exploring several Caribbean ports, they will cross the Atlantic once more to France, Netherlands, Scotland and Norway, where Bacus will graduate.
"I never thought I'd ever be able to do anything like this," she said.
Anyone interested in donating to the final $3,000 of Bacus' trip can do so online at dreamafloat.com. If donations exceed the $50,000 target, the extra money will be put toward scholarships for future Class Afloat students. To follow Bacus' blog while she is at sea, visit dreamafloat.blogspot.ca.
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