Paularino Elementary School teachers Lisa Roberts and Shannon Spining share a passion for teaching and kayaking.
Now, the pair have something else in common: an award for their philanthropic efforts.
Roberts and Spining started their nonprofit, Kayaking 4 Kids, four years ago to raise money for the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) Arts Advantage Program and the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
In August, the duo, along with another Newport-Mesa teacher, Alicia Arvizu, and a Paularino Elementary parent, Breanna Sotelo, kayaked 26 miles from Catalina Island's Avalon Harbor to the Newport Aquatic Center, raising $2,000 for arts education.
"We want to keep arts education in the forefront of the minds of the community," Roberts said. "Art promotes critical thinking, problem-solving and provides an outlet for creativity that [students] might not always have."
In response to their contribution to the arts, the OCDE presented Roberts and Spining with an Outstanding Contributions to Education award during its board meeting Nov. 13.
"Kayaking 4 Kids is an amazing grassroots effort led by two dedicated teachers. We are honored to recognize Lisa and Shannon for their time and efforts," said board member Elizabeth Parker. "Their support of arts education has supplied several classrooms with art supplies for the year."
Spining and Roberts have been colleagues and friends for more than 10 years.
"It feels like a lifetime, but in a good way," Spining said. "We finish each other's sentences."
This "brain share," as the two call it, helps them remain in sync, which is a critical aspect of kayaking.
"You definitely need to be able to communicate, since the person in front [of the kayak] sets the pace," Roberts said.
The voyage, which is typically nine hours long, was only 8 1/2 this year. Spining said the group picked up speed after spotting a shark in the water.
"We got a sudden adrenaline rush ..... It was the biggest fin I've ever seen up close," she said.
The organization accepts donations, which can be sent via http://www.kayaking4kids.org.