Rocking the Boat empowers young people challenged by severe economic, educational, and social conditions to develop the self-confidence to set ambitious goals and gain the skills necessary to achieve them. Students work together to build wooden boats, learn to row and sail, and restore local urban waterways, revitalizing their community while creating better lives for themselves. Adam Green launched Rocking the Boat in 1996 as a volunteer project in an East Harlem junior high school. It has since developed into a fully sustainable independent non-profit organization annually serving nearly 3,000 young people and community members. Kids don't just build boats at Rocking the Boat, boats build kids.
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The majority of Rocking the Boat students are drawn from the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx and represent Latino, African-American, Caucasian, West Indian, Indian, Asian, South American, and African cultures. Hunts Point sits in the poorest Congressional District in the nation and in the poorest zip code east of the Mississippi. Public schools in the South Bronx are overcrowded and underfunded, resulting in discouraged students and contributing to an alarmingly low on-time graduation rate of just 35%. Exceptionally high student to teacher ratios make it difficult for schools to accommodate individual learning styles and challenges. This leads too many students in Hunts Point and surrounding neighborhoods to get caught in a cycle of failure starting with dropping out of high school and skipping college.
Creating a welcoming environment where young people feel safe, respected, and cared for
Helping young people set and achieve goals and, in turn, develop a greater sense of pride and accomplishment
Exposing young people to future opportunities-academic, professional, and personal
Providing young people with the tools, resources, and guidance they need to reach their goals
Helping young people use their unique experience at Rocking the Boat to impact the rest of their lives and to make positive contributions to their community and the world at large
Introducing South Bronx community members of all ages to their local natural environment and providing opportunities to enjoy its waters aboard the organization's fleet of student-built wooden boats and to actively contribute to its restoration and preservation
Rocking the Boat's Social Work Team includes three Licensed Masters of Social Work providing comprehensive support to all students, Apprentices, and alumni. The Primary Social Worker meets with 9th and 10th grade students individually throughout each semester, offering counseling, identifying issues in social and emotional development, and strategizing on how to address them. She is also in regular contact with their teachers, guidance counselors, and parents, and coordinates weekly group Life Skills workshops throughout each semester that explore topics necessary for adult life, but generally not taught at school or at home. The Secondary Social Worker focuses on 11th and 12th graders, primarily helping them to stay on track to finish high school and get into college and trade school. The Alumni Social Worker engages and provides clinical services to program alumni, particularly during their first two years after high school, with an explicit goal to help Rocking the Boat graduates complete college and trade school programs.
Youth Development students join together for numerous trips during the semester, including day-long rowing trips to SUNY Maritime and sails on the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater; weekend camping adventures to the Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival and the Ashokan Field Campus; and five-day rowing and sailing expeditions during the summer up the Hudson River, along the Long Island Sound, or out on the Atlantic Ocean.
college tours and other trips
Job Skills Apprentices attend college fairs and visit college campuses numerous times during the semester, most often SUNYs and CUNYs. Apprentices also journey to career expos; have a weekend camping adventure to the WoodenBoat Show; and in the summer spend five days camping, visiting wooden boat shops, environmental labs, and more college campuses.
An interactive Family Night event marks the mid-point of each spring and fall semester. Students and Apprentices welcome parents, grandparents, siblings, and mentors to Rocking the Boat for demonstrations, refreshments, and informal presentations. A large community boat launch event completes each semester, allowing Boatbuilding and On-Water students to celebrate their accomplishments with friends and families and get a first opportunity to name and use their new creation.
Rocking the Boat employs up to 14 young people who have graduated from the Job Skills Program and are enrolled in local colleges or trade schools as part-time Program Assistants. They work leading and teaching On-Water Group Programs and the Boatbuilding and On-Water Youth Development Programs, while still benefiting from Rocking the Boat's social services. Program Assistants are indispensable members of Rocking the Boat's teaching team. With their long histories in the Boatbuilding and On-Water Programs, they have both the technical and leadership skills necessary to provide essential support to the Program Directors. And since they are just a few years older than incoming students, they help define Rocking the Boat's distinctive learning environment for new students, create a comfortable atmosphere, and serve as terrific role models.