Last Friday, eight Program Assistants (PAs) completed their second full-day session of a month-long safe powerboat handling course at SUNY Maritime’s Waterfront Center. Dubbed “Driver’s Ed for Boaters” on the center’s website, the course includes both in-classroom lessons and hands-on training out on the water. PAs were able to get behind the wheel in their very first class, when they completed an on-water obstacle course and practiced docking. For those who had never driven a powerboat before, these activities were definitely challenging. But with the encouragement—and loud cheering!—of their peers, everyone was triumphant and felt a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. The second class focused on high speed maneuvering and docking.
The training is part of a new initiative—generously sponsored by a $25,000 Youth Service Improvement Grant from the William T. Grant Foundation—aimed at increasing the organization’s capacity to teach sailing and support long distance expeditions. In addition to providing full-time staff with more on-water support, it is a great resume-building opportunity for PAs, who will all receive their NYS Safe Boating License and a U.S. Powerboating Certificate upon completion.
Check back in the coming weeks for a blog post on the PAs’ progress completing another training at SUNY Maritime: a 40-hour basic keelboat course that will earn them valuable sailing experience and a U.S. Sailing Basic Keelboat certificate.
On April 17, Rocking the Boat proudly recognized not one but THREE giants in the wooden boat world at the 2013 Whitehall Award benefit—Steve White, President of Mystic Seaport; Scarano Boatbuilding; and Classic Harbor Line— and raised more than $121,000 in the process. The setting was once again the New York Yacht Club’s incomparable Model Room but new guests, including America’s Cup captain Dawn Riley and eight Rocking the Boat alumni, helped set this year’s event apart. It was wonderful to have such a full room of enthusiastic supporters and to hear both of our accomplished honorees speak so highly of Rocking the Boat and our students. We were especially touched by Steve White’s generous remarks (to read the full speech, click here):
“Rocking the Boat plays a vital role in providing access for its young people to meaningful experiences that serve to deepen their understanding of themselves while also helping them acquire important and lasting life skills that quite literally shapes their lives forever. These immersive and interactive experiences create a new framework for success, and in the process, an important community is formed that provides valuable support and direction. Frankly, there needs to be more places like Rocking the Boat that provide access to opportunity and access to mentors.”
The event was also a preliminary celebration of the tremendous accomplishment of Rocking the Boat Apprentices, who are close to finishing construction of a 29-foot Beetle whaleboat for Mystic. The mammoth project got underway in summer, 2011, and will culminate at the end of June when we deliver her to Mystic at the WoodenBoat Show. Lots more information on the project and the young people who built it is available on the whaleboat webpage. And anyone interested in seeing this beauty before she leaves New York waters is welcome to attend Rocking the Boat’s end-of-spring semester boat launch on June 1.
They’re squirmy…they’re slimy…and they’re living in the Bronx River! The funny thing is, people—well, scientists—are extremely happy about it.
This spring, Rocking the Boat’s Environmental Apprentices have joined forces with the Wildlife Conservation Society on an American Eel Monitoring Project. The prep work, which took place in March, involved fraying dozens of yards of plastic rope and fastening them to plastic planters so they resemble clumps of eel grass. Apprentices then placed three such clumps, or “eel mops,” fastened to three-pound weightlifting plates in two locations at the bottom the Bronx River and tethered to pilings, so that they would attract eels looking for shelter. The monitoring phase began at the middle of March and entails rowing out to the sites, hauling up the mops, and vigorously rinsing them in a tub of water and seeing if any eels drop out. After the first few tries came up empty, Apprentices recently discovered their first eel mop guests: one juvenile eel and one more mature eel, known in technical terms as a glass eel and a yellow eel.
A quick primer on the species: all American eels are born in the Sargasso Sea, between Bermuda and the Bahamas. They travel over 2,000 miles to NY harbor miles to fresh water bodies in North America where they spend most of their lives before returning to the Sargasso to spawn before dying. Studying the life cycle of the American eel can reveal a great deal about the health of not only fresh water bodies such as the Bronx River but also the estuaries and oceans they feed into. Once abundant on the East coast, populations of American eel have been steadily declining in recent years, making their discovery all the more exciting to scientists hoping to nurture their revival. Rocking the Boat’s Apprentices will continue to monitor the eel mops every week through the end of May.
Rocking the Boat’s brand new Alumni Committee held its first event this past Wednesday! Cathy Perez, Cicy Medina, Danny Martinez, Harold Jarvis, Jasmine Benitez, and Terrell Smith, the founding members of the Committee, decided that the focus had to be on helping alumni get jobs. The GET A JOB workshop involved four stations: cover letter writing, resume writing, mock interviewing, and on-line job searching, staffed by Rocking the Boat Program Directors, Board Member Michael Robinson, and volunteer and Patagonia employee Grace Ladd. Ash Kherdekar, the Alumni Social Worker, did a fantastic job supporting the Alumni Committee and the volunteers and ensuring that everything ran smoothly.
The 16 alumni who attended (some of whom graduated as far back as 2007) cycled through each station, and each left with something valuable—a better resume, ideas for a cover letter, feedback on their interviewing techniques, or accounts with popular job listing websites (Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com, Idealist.org, etc.). Here’s what a couple of the alums had to say about the first Alumni workshop:
“This was a really good event. Look at my resume. It looks good now!” – Taji R.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about my career goals, but never took any steps towards them. Last night made me take my first step. I completed my first real resume!” – Carolina G.
Congratulations to the Alumni Committee for putting together such a successful event!
Rocking the Boat’s Fall 2011 End of Semester Celebration was a huge success! Over 200 people from all over the Bronx and beyond came to see the launch of our latest boat, the 17-foot Whitehall Knowledge; danced to live music by the amazing Abrazos Orchestra; enjoyed a huge assortment of homemade food provided by Rocking the Boat parents, and saw the unveiling of a new six panel art project on the history of the Bronx River, created by our On-Water students and Environmental Job Skills apprentices.
Rocking the Boat Program Assistants and Executive Director Adam Green with U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano (far left) and U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (third from right)
In October, Rocking the Boat was invited by the National Park Service to attend the launch of the New York component of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership at Roberto Clemente State Park, in the Bronx.
Rocking the Boat uses boats to help young people challenged by severe economic, educational, and social disadvantage develop into empowered and responsible adults. Participating during the school day, after-school, and summer in hands-on wooden boatbuilding and on-water education programs, young people in the South Bronx develop the self-confidence to set ambitious goals and the skills needed to achieve them. The organization serves over 2,700 young people and community members annually. Kids don’t just build boats at Rocking the Boat, boats build kids.