ST. PETE — All sorts of ships are departing from Tampa Bay every day, but there is one particular vessel that’s about to go on a voyage that will be life-changing for a population that often gets overlooked.
Liz Sutherland is used to navigating through challenging circumstances growing up in the foster care system but she never imagined it would land her on a real yacht.
“I’m using my story, you know it’s kind of like a vessel for the world, and literally this is my vessel,” said Sutherland as she climbed aboard the 100-foot sailboat.
First came the book, “No Ordinary Liz,” then came the ship. Liz has become the face and ambassador for the I Can Foundation, which supports and inspires young adults, ages 18-24, who are aging out of the foster care system.
“I didn’t have a mom, a dad, a grandmother, a grandpa, aunts, uncles, I didn’t even have my siblings, and so I literally was just out here trying to figure it out, trying to navigate, what is my next path, what is my next step,” said Sutherland.
According to Sutherland, 23,000 people nationwide age out of the foster system every year, like 18-year-old Daveon.
“It’s very challenging keeping a high morality, there’s a lot of stuff that can bring you down,” said Daveon.
So the I Can Foundation is giving young people like Daveon the trip of a lifetime, a 90-day sailing excursion throughout the Caribbean, docking at various destinations along the way.
“It allows me to learn new things, learn about myself, travel, a lot of stuff that people my age can’t do,” said Daveon.
Daveon will be among six new first mates aboard the maiden voyage in April.
“Just talking to him you know, he’s 18, and I look at him and I was like, ‘I was your age 21-years-ago, and I wished I had this opportunity, I would have loved it,’ so for him getting ready to embark on this is just very symbolic,” said Sutherland.
Sutherland will be the first to tell you this is no vacation, it’s a new outlook at life.
“This yacht is a school, so they are going to learn how to scuba dive, they are going to learn first aid certifications, swimming,” said Sutherland. “Each of the destinations they travel to they will get to emerge themselves in the local culture, get to taste the foods, get to hike the rainforest, get to just connect.”