Free Cabo Vacation For Military Family!

      WOW! I can't believe this is actually happening! A family whose dad just returned from Iraq has been given a free trip to Cabo- all expenses paid, courtesy of a very generous resort down here in gorgeous Cabo San Lucas called the Villa Del Palmar Beach Resort and Spa, owned by The Villa Group.
     I know the family well, the Motas. Their 7 year old son Gabriel was in my class last year at Santa Margarita Elementary (Oceanside Unified School District). I teach the kids of deployed Marines on Camp Pendeleton, and having taught on base for 8 years, I can tell you that these military families are some of the best people I have ever met. They have been through a lot since 9-11, enduring the absences of deployed loved ones.
     As you may know, I also fish and travel a lot. I knew these great resort owners down here in Cabo. I told them about my working alongside military families, and they seemed very interested... I told them that I get a lot out of helping these people, and they still seemed very interested... and then I told them, half jokingly, why not fly down one of these families and give them a treat- an all expenses paid vacation to one of your resorts.
     Of course I wasn't expecting a positive response. Well guess what? The Villa Group said yes- (Dreams do come true!) and now the Mota family is down here in Cabo, for free! I'm just here to take pictures and help them around town, show them the sights, and guide their fishing trip. It's a brutal assignment, but I think I can handle it!
     Here's the skinny on the family: Staff Sergaent Nick Mota, his wife Amber who works as a yard duty at my elementary school, Santa Margarita (Oceanside Unified School District, 30 minutes North of San Diego), Gabe, and his big sister, 11 year old Sarah,  just celebrated dad's most recent return from Iraq. I don't know how many times he's been there, but I assume it's 2 or 3- they're on that series of deployments, it seems. So what better way to spend some quality time reuniting than to do it here in LOVELY CABO! This here is a view from their room:

     I knew that it might happen for several weeks but it seemed too good to be true so I didn't tell anyone except Amber and Staff Sgt. Mota. Once the plane tickets arrived, they told the kids, and we just got here this morning. Suffice it to say that the whole family is wildly excited and appreciative. They will be enjoying being treated as VIP's here- they've got the run of the place- and they'll be taking jaunts into exotic downtown Cabo, as well as relaxing by the pool, snorkeling, deep sea fishing, seeing shows here at the resort, and much more.
     I'll keep you all posted, and until next post, take care!
Jon Schwartz


Class Fishing Trip- YAHOO!

Towards the end of the year, one of my second grade students asked me if we were going on a trip. Truth was, I didn't think so. Somehow we ended up with no transportation to the zoo or Seaworld or wherever it was, so it seemed hopeless. It then occurred to me- why not call Friends of Rollo?
Friends of Rollo http://www.friendsofrollo.com/ is a San Diego based non-profit group made up of bigwigs in the sport fishing industry that send kids on fishing trips. Not just any kids- kids who need a break, whether they be disabled, poor, or disadvantaged in some other significant way. As you may know, my students' dads- most of them Marines- are often in Iraq and Afghanistan on deployment. Their families have endured a lot of hardships since September 11. These families have done everything that they have been asked to do with no complaints. For the dads, that means dealing with multiple deployments to a war zone. For those left here in the US, that means being worried about their deployed family members, and for the kids, basically growing up in single parent households. Meanwhile, the wives have had to work ten times as hard to keep things going as smoothly as possible. In any case, yeah, these kids deserve a break! I put in a phone call to John Rowe, one of the people over at Friends of Rollo. It was totally last minute, and I wasn't expecting that we could get a trip, but sure enough, John emails me back, asking if the kids could launch out of Dana Point, with the Dana Wharf Sportfishing Company http://www.danawharfsportfishing.com/on the boat Clemente. Just like that, we had a free fishing trip for the while class- meals, bait, tackle, the whole 9 yards! Next I had to arrange for some people to help on board. The kids would need help baiting their hooks, and hopefully, fighting fish. A quick call to the Oceanside Senior Angler's Club netted us a hearty crew of gentlemen- old salts, really- that were eager to assist. Cut to the chase, we get down there, and the weather was just perfect. The Clemente's captain and crew immediately impressed me with the way they handled the students. By 10:00 we were on our way South towards the fishing grounds. We passed by many species of marine life that the kids were able to identify and discuss. We'd done a lot of research on the coastal environment, learning about the various types of animals that we might expect to run into. This made the experience very rich and rewarding- after all, it was a hands-on science lesson!
This post is too long already, and I think I'll be writing an article in a magazine soon about the whole experience, so let me just skim over some of my favorite moments. We tried for bass, and had no luck- actually, one kid caught a 5 inch sculpin. At that point I'm thinking, This is gonna be a long trip! The captain announced that we'd try to get into a semi-hot barracuda bite farther offshore, so that "every kid can catch one fish". That seemed to be a far-fetched goal. Guess what? It wasn't! We get out there and the bite goes wide open, and next thing I know, the kids are hooting, hollering, and grimacing as they battle the biggest monsters the ocean can dish out!
Total tally: for 18 kids, 20 BIG barracuda were caught. Barracuda are the perfect fish for these sized students, as they pull hard, but don't wage the type of protracted battle that would sap most kids' energy and patience. The trip was an unqualified success, and we owe it all to Friends of Rollo. I urge people who have an extra minute to visit their site and see what they're all about! http://www.friendsofrollo.com/


Taking Kids Fishing- Part 1

Besides making gobs of money, teaching provides me with a very important resource- a captive audience of inexperienced and impressionable people who are easily impressed. My students get bored of my fishing tales by the October, so I begin to take them on local fishing trips with their parents(those who aren't deployed- these are military kids).
For example, I had this kid named Kasey Brunot. He was so far above grade level in reading that we spent the time reserved for reading assessments chatting. Turns out the kid was as stoked on fishing as I was! His grandpa had moved in with his mom to help out while dad was deployed, and gramps had been passing down a whole lot of key surf fishing know how.
All through the winter, I kept telling Kasey that the three of us would have to go kayak fishing; if he thought those 3 pound corbina put up a fight, wait until he felt a 20 pound yellowtail towing his kayak around! Just before spring break, I told him that if the annual white seabass and yellowtail bite hit, I may just be giving him a call.
Sure enough, three days into vacation, I find out that the squid had come through in great numbers, attracting gamefish that inhale them up like Pez. I called Kasey's house, and told his mom that the time had come for us to reap the bounty of the high seas! I ran out and borrowed a kayak for Kasey and his grandpa Chris Brunot (who's only 50 years old), and got Kasey a used wetsuit and some other foul weather gear.
We'd be trying to get our own squid out on the water before dawn, so I picked up the duo at their apartment at 3:00 am. Any doubts as to whether Kasey and Chris were ready were dashed when I saw them both scurry down the steps at exactly 2:55 with a spring in their steps.

I'm going to cut to the chase here, because I want to save this story for an article I plan to write for a publication, but basically, we had a WILD time. We weren't able to make squid but we were given some, and we eventually landed a nice 27 pound yellowtail. Kasey was in hog heaven, and Chris, who had been fishing from boats and beaches since he was 5, was hooked on kayaking as well. BIG fun!

For more info on this pic go to this site here.