My name is Michael Long. I'm a cross between a beach bum and a farm boy. My parents divorced early on and my dad lived in Florida's cattle ranching area, while my mom remained closed to the beach in Sarasota. I'm grateful my parents' divorce showed me the diversity of Florida's wilderness, but a difficult set of family circumstances left me a rebellious, hurt, and angry teenager. After spending several years tangled up in Florida's juvenile justice system, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend New College of Florida - a small liberal arts college in Sarasota, FL. I studied public policy, but most of my learning took place outside of the classroom. I lived on a sailboat for three years, served in many student leadership positions, and found a way to align my passion for second chances with the desire for a demanding and exciting career.
My social venture is SailFuture, an organization dedicated to creating second chances for the high risk juvenile offenders. We built a small scale, high-impact “fellowship program” that has connected over 40 high risk juveniles in Florida with passionate mentors, academic support, and life skills training.
Our successes and shortcomings over the past two years have led to the development of SailFuture Odyssey, an alternative to incarceration for Florida's highest risk offenders. Over 40% of youth sentenced to residential placement in Florida return to prison within a single year with many more reoffending outside the 1-year reporting time. Youth are sentenced to residential placement becasue of the severity of their offense and/or their risk to reoffend. Judges are left with no option but to “securely confine” youth to residential facilities that consistently report unacceptable youth outcomes. Our model utilizes a large sailing vessel traveling the Caribbean sea to “securely confine” youth as an alternative to the costly and ineffective residential programs in place today. Our behavior modification model is built around three core components - education, counseling, and global service. Four professional staff will live on board with 12 students for 6-month expeditions.
We plan to support our work through a private charter business that generates revenue for the organization while providing decompression time for staff. After every 6-month expedition, the vessel will be chartered for 16 weeks in the Caribbean.
The end goal for SailFuture Odyssey is not to have 1,000 boats darting throughout the Caribbean serving every juvenile offender in Florida. Our goal is to truly transform the lives of the youth we serve, and inspire the public and state agencies to believe that every kid deserves a second chance.