Girl Scouts, San Jacinto Council, Logo

Connie Chavez

Girl Scout camp charts course for nautical future

HOUSTON, TX (Aug. 24, 2009) – Sometimes, “what I did on my summer vacation” turns into a lifelong career. That’s the case with former Girl Scout Koralina Pior, known around Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council’s Camp Casa Mare for years as Koral. She started sailing at age 11 and now works for J World, one of the country’s most prestigious sailing schools, in Annapolis, Md.

“I don’t think most people imagine someone would make a lifestyle out of a hobby they picked up at summer camp,” says Koral, “much less go on to make it more than a hobby but make it lifestyle, a way of life, a future, a passion and career path. I’m sure my students at J World don’t ever think their sailing coach got her start and all her fundamental know-how from a Girl Scout sailing camp in a small town on the coast of Texas.”

Growing up in a neighborhood near Camp Casa Mare in Seabrook, Texas put Koral in close proximity to the water. At age 11, her mother decided she would utilize her backyard and enrolled her in the two-week sailing session at Camp Casa Mare.

“While I wanted to go to camp, I didn’t really want to go sailing,” says Koral. “But after my mother’s persistence, I decided to go and give it a shot. Once I got the hang of it, which took a while, I wanted to know more, sail bigger boats and go faster! Something about the freedom the water offered and using a force of nature to go from one place to another fueled my interest.”

That summer Koral completed her Red Cross Basic Sailing, a required course for any girl wishing to be a mariner in the Council’s sailing program. Then she started attending all the mariner weekends at camp.

“I found I had a knack for teaching the other girls who were having a hard time,” she says. “It wasn’t long after I became a sailing aid.”

During summers from 2001-2004, Koral could be found on the water, helping counselors teach girls the basics of sailing. It was winning a race during a mariner’s weekend that made sailing a lifelong passion, however.

“We were having inner camp games and one of the events was a race around the rectangle course. We split into two age groups – I was with the younger one at the time. The gun sounded and off we went. It was close, but I crossed the line in first. I think the moment I won that race was the moment I decided I wanted to sail outside the Girl Scouts and compete. Girl Scouts taught me to sail and honed my skills, but I wanted more.”

So she began find opportunities in the community. Throughout college, Koral taught sailing during the summers which eventually led her to J World.

“The summer of 2007, I got a job at Chicago Sailing in Belmont Harbor off Lake Michigan teaching adults,” she explains. “While I was there, I met more sailors in the industry. One gentleman, Jay Palace of GEL Corp., ran a corporate team building program out of the sailing school. We became quick friends and kept in touch after I left Chicago.”

Following her college graduation, Koral decided to postpone law school and become a sailing instructor. Palace suggested J World. Within days Koral had an interview and was hired onto the coaching staff.

“I consider myself very lucky to wake up every day and look forward to work and actually be proud of the work I do at the end of every day.”

In addition to teaching sailing, Koral is also a member of two sailing teams. This fall her J24 Spiff team will compete in the East Coast Championships and her J80 Dragonfly team will complete in the J80 North Americans right in her own backyard, where her mother suggested she start sailing years ago: Seabrook, Texas.

“Sailing has taught me that even if you don’t get it at first, it’s only a matter of time and practice before you get the hang of something,” says Koral. “It taught me that hard work and teamwork make boats sail. The bonds you make on boats can last a lifetime.”

Girl Scouts of the USA is the world's preeminent organization for girls, with a membership of more than 3.7 million girls and adults. Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. Chartered by GSUSA to provide Girl Scouting locally, Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council is one of the largest Girl Scout councils in the country serving more than 65,000 girl members and 17,000 adults in 26 southeast Texas counties.