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Keeping her dream afloat

Surrey teen has a chance to spend her Grade 12 year sailing the world on a tall ship – but needs financial help.

Apart from family trips to the U.S. and Mexico, Alysha Bacus has spent pretty much all of her 16 years in Surrey.

So when her friends, most of whom are from other countries, chat about their worldly experiences, she gets admittedly envious.

“I listen to them talk about their lives before they came here, and I always find it amazing,” Bacus says. “I want to see how other people live and experience it for myself.”

If things go her way during the next year or so, she just might have that chance.

The Kwantlen Park Secondary student has been invited to attend Class Afloat, a Nova Scotia-based sea school program where she would travel the world on a tall ship while completing Grade 12.

The program invites about 60 applicants aboard a 1927 Norwegian ship called the Sorlandet, visiting about 22 ports around the world over approximately eight or nine months. Bacus is entering Grade 11 this fall, so the trip wouldn’t be until late August 2013.

“It would change my life. I’ve talked to so many people that come off the boat and it’s opened so many doors for them,” says Bacus, who wants to eventually join the Coast Guard. “You learn so much about different cultures all around the world because you’re just completely immersed in them – you’re a part of them for those four or five days that you’re in that port.”

As well, for a year, the participants must learn to live in very close quarters with more than five dozen people.

“You have a sea chest, a locker and a bed. That’s your personal space.”

The only obstacle to her ocean journey is the cost: $50,000.

While she initially thought the fee amounted to the end of her dream, she kept thinking there had to be a way.

She has since started a website called Dream Afloat. While she and her family have come up with $10,000, she hopes to raise the remaining $40,000 through contributions. Her idea is that if 2,000 people contribute $20 each, she’ll reach her goal.

“I don’t actually know 2000 people but if you could do me the enormous favor of telling 10 friends about me and they tell 10 friends, it might just work,” her website says.

So far, with money from bottle and coin drives, the total sits at about $16,400.

Alysha’s mom Sherry, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last August and has since undergone multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, says she has learned how important it is to value each day. Through the tough times, Alysha has been an inspiration, says Sherry.

“The last year has been very difficult for our family,” she says, “and despite it all ... Alysha has maintained a positive attitude, good grades and the ability to keep dreaming.”

To make a donation or learn more about Class Afloat, Alysha and her fundraising campaign, visit or email Contributions can also be mailed to 14030 Grosvenor Rd., Surrey, B.C. V3R 5G5. (If she raises more than she needs or doesn’t raise enough, the money will be donated to the Class Afloat Scholarship Fund).

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