rocking the boat juniors want to know:
what’s college really like?
food for thought
This past winter was generally a mild one—except for one freezing week during February school vacation when Rocking the Boat's Social Work team brought 15 juniors on a four-day tour of five upstate New York colleges. It was, in many ways, the perfect metaphor: a bracing bit of cold reality. College is going to be very different from what they are used to! But like a down jacket and warm wool hat, Rocking the Boat is helping its students brave the elements and make the transition from high school to their next phase in life.
Rocking the Boat students frequently apply to State University of New York (SUNY) schools, as they are relatively inexpensive and have 64 campuses—urban and rural, small and large. At SUNY Albany, they were riveted by the presentation on the school’s Education Opportunity Program (EOP), which helps economically and educationally disadvantaged students attend college. The EOP program director was joined by a student who explained in detail how supportive he has found being a member of the EOP community at Albany—it was tide turning for several Rocking the Boaters. Joseph Baez, for example, had been quietly taking in information during the tour but he related closely to this freshman's experience and suddenly felt inspired to think more seriously about his future plans. At SUNY Binghamton and Syracuse University, the group was hosted by three Rocking the Boat alumni, who were thrilled to lead campus tours and share their experiences. The juniors' appetite for practical advice was voracious, and they peppered their friends with questions about what to expect: what is the workload really like, do professors offer help, what are ways to save money, which are the best dorms and dining halls, did they have trouble adjusting to life outside of New York City, and a million more. The guides answered them all and emphasized the importance of managing their time well.
Over the course of the week, which beyond the tours and information sessions included nights out bowling and cheering at the basketball faceoff between SUNY Stonybrook and SUNY Albany, even students who had been questioning whether they could overcome the fears surrounding college started to envision themselves on campuses like the ones they visited. Destiny Colon's post-trip comment was representative of this transformation:
"Before the trip, college wasn't something I was really thinking about. Now I am definitely interested in attending college. I learned what it's like to apply, how to pay for it, what dorms are like and how to settle into college. One school that I didn't know about before the trip is SUNY Broome and now it is a place I definitely want to go. I like that they didn't focus on test grades to get into their school especially because mine aren’t as high as I'd like them to be. I also really liked the campus. The biggest takeaway from the entire trip, for me, was how much college costs and what I have to do to get financial aid."
Endnote: Rocking the Boat’s class of 2016 has received acceptances to a long list of colleges including Brooklyn College, St. Lawrence University, SUNY Albany, and the International Yacht Restoration School.
A long list of ingredients goes into Rocking the Boat's special sauce: wood and water, sailcloth and seaweed, peaches and peanut butter. That's right, peaches and peanut butter. With dozens of teenagers in program for three hours every afternoon, healthy snacks play an integral role in keeping all Rocking the Boaters rocking until they go home for dinner. This makes five in-kind food donors—D'Arrigo Brothers, Peanut Butter & Co., Gourmet Guru, Clif Bar, and Stumptown Coffee—the unsung heroes of Rocking the Boat.
D’Arrigo Brothers is a pioneer in the produce industry. Today the third generation of D'Arrigos is running one of the largest and most successful produce businesses in the country from the Hunts Point Terminal Market—right next door to Rocking the Boat! Staff make weekly runs for fresh fruits and veggies, then prepare platters of healthy snacks for kids to dive into every program day. Yum!
Ever since first visiting Rocking the Boat through its In Good Company volunteer program in 2012, Clif Bar has been a generous friend, supplying students with a steady stream of healthy alternatives to cookies and candy bars that keep their energy up during long rows and busy afternoons in the shop. And they are perfect for packing and bringing along on Rocking the Boat’s weekend campouts at the WoodenBoat Show and weeklong trips on the Long Island Sound.
Peanut Butter & Co.'s website recounts how founder and President Lee Zalben discovered his calling as the Peanut Butter Guy: "While an undergraduate student at Vassar College, he always won the fierce competitions he and his friends held for the wackiest but best-tasting peanut butter sandwich during late night study breaks. It was then where the idea of opening a peanut butter sandwich shop sprouted." Vassar classmate and Rocking the Boat founder Adam Green was one of those friends and early fans, and today Lee generously delivers multiple cases of gourmet peanut butter goodness—Dark Chocolate Dreams and Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, to name just two of the very inventive flavors—to Rocking the Boat in advance of every spring and fall semester.
Like D'Arrigo Brothers, Gourmet Guru is a Hunts Point neighbor of Rocking the Boat. Launched in 1986 and named by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the 2011 Small Business of the Year for the Bronx, it distributes natural and organic food to markets up and down the Eastern seaboard. Gourmet Guru has relationships with healthy brands including Fage yogurt, Applegate meats, and Dancing Deer cookies, and provides delicious refreshments for many of Rocking the Boat's special events, such as Family and Friends Night, Spring Launch Fest, and the fall fundraiser Rocking Manhattan. Last October, Gourmet Guru hosted its own event at Rocking the Boat during which Red Hook-based Stumptown Coffee asked how it could get involved. A couple of emails later and Stumptown is now Rocking the Boat's official coffee supplier, sending 10 pounds of beans to the Bronx per month! The staff is grateful, to say the least, for the daily fuel.