Civic Group
O’Neill Sea Odyssey

Hands-on educational experience to encourage the protection and preservation of our living seas and community

Years active: 24 years

Their story: Wetsuit icon Jack O’Neill was captivated by the idea of passing his appreciation and love of the ocean onto the next generation. After he and his son renovated a boat to become a certified charter vessel, that led to development of a school science program. From the very first O’Neill Sea Odyssey class in 1996, the program has taught more than 100,000 4th-6th grade students throughout the region about appreciating, protecting and conserving our oceans. Executive Director Rachel Kippen says the program especially focuses on underserved students, many of whom have never been on a boat before. Some, she says, have never even been to the beach. A passion for environmental justice is core to Kippen’s work with the organization, which aims to bring inclusivity and giving everyone the experience of exploring the Monterey Bay.

Fundraising focus:

  • Virtual ocean education experiences: OSO is currently facilitating hour-long teacher "takeovers" where they teach individual classes on Google Classroom or Zoom with live-streaming footage and plankton samples, and they are hosting large public online learning events. 
  • In-person and Hybrid Program Funding: They generally serve approximately 5,500 students per year on the water and in their Shoreside Education Center at the Santa Cruz Harbor. They plan to do this again as soon as it is safe, and they anticipate increased costs with safety protocols for any sort of hybrid return (training of staff, masks, sanitation stations, etc). 
  • Bus transportation scholarships: When the program can safely resume in-person, they will need to provide bus transportation scholarships. As O'Neill Sea Odyssey primarily serves low income school districts, many of public schools cannot afford to cover the cost of bus transportation from their school, to the harbor, and back.  

Rachel Kippen
Executive Director

Rachel is a coastal environmental advocate and artist with a background in public program development and nonprofit management. She joins O’Neill Sea Odyssey with a local understanding of environmental education priorities and stormwater program design based on her experience as Director of Programs at Save Our Shores and recently through her tenure coordinating environmental initiatives at the City of Watsonville.

We bring these experiences to students who might not otherwise have these opportunities.

— Rachel