Rocking the Boat changes kids lives

I was recently “tagged” by my leadership blogger friend Ed Brenegar of Leading Questions to participate in Alex Shalman’s Compassion, Caring, Charity project. This is the first time that I’ve been “tagged” like this so here goes…

Last week was a very busy one for me with several of my nonprofit interests.

SEA logo On Sunday and Monday, I traveled to Woods Hole, MA to participate in SEA Education Association’s semi-annual Trustee and Overseer’s meetings. This amazing organization sends young college students to sea on two tall ships, Corwith Cramer and Robert C. Seamans, for a fully accredited semester long programs. They also have summer high school programs and an occasional adult experience like the upcoming SEA Expedition program sailing throughout French Polynesia over 7 days in January 2008 (There’s still time to sign up! )

On Wednesday evening I had a Mattapoisett Community Sailing Association (MattSail) board meeting where I am pleased to serve as a pro-bono consultant to this community based nonprofit that teaches young people how to sail and more. From concept in January 2007 to running a pilot program teaching 12 kids to sail in July 2007 to having a Summer Gala in August 2007, MattSail is in the enviable position of having nearly 2 years of operating budget in the “hold” and a very promising future on the horizon! It been exciting to be part of this nonprofit startup.

Tabor Boy via Tabor Academy website Finally on Friday, I participated in a day long meeting at my high school alma mater, Tabor Academy, where I have served on the Headmaster’s Council for the past few years. Tabor, also commonly known as “The School by the Sea”, is where I began my sail training experience on the schooner Tabor Boy, an experience that taught me more about leadership (and life) than nearly any since. Earlier this year I launched The Tabor Boy Project which is a social media living history project and online community focused on Tabor Boy’s 50 plus years of changing young lives at sea under sail.

The above three organizations are all amazing and I devote lots of time, energy, thought and resources to each of them. However, in thinking about the Compassion, Caring, Charity project I kept gravitating to another incredible organization, Rocking the Boat in the Bronx, NY.

Rocking the Boat logoI first came across Rocking the Boat when I was executive director of the American Sail Training Association. In 2003, Adam Green, founder and executive director, attended the 30th annual ASTA conference in Providence, RI along with several of the program’s young boatbuilders. They set up one of their beautiful boats in the hotel lobby for all of the conferees and hotel guests to marvel over.

From the Rocking the Boat website:

Rocking the Boat is a boatbuilding and on-water education program based out of the southwest Bronx, New York City. Through a hands-on alternative approach to education and youth development, Rocking the Boat addresses the need for inner city youth to achieve practical and tangible goals, relevant to both everyday life and future aspirations. This process allows high school students to acquire practical, academic, and social skills. Rocking the Boat runs programming in both boatbuilding and environmental science, coordinating three after school and summer programs in each discipline annually, working directly with over 150 students, all of whom receive high school credit. During the process of building a traditional wooden boat, Rocking the Boat students create something not only beautiful, but practical in their own lives, bridging urban and natural life within their neighborhoods. This approach is mirrored in the on-water education program through direct focus on Bronx River habitat monitoring and restoration and through maritime life skills programming. Both programs allow students opportunities to gain a deeper awareness of their own abilities and possibilities in the natural and urban world.

This short video does a great job of capturing the essence of this powerful program. PLEASE watch it!

The Rocking the Boat website has lots of great photos and other interesting information about how they employ an effective peer leadership model to bring the art and craft of boatbuilding to under-served, at-risk youth in the Bronx, NY and change lives in the process.

In the September 10, 2007 issue of Time Magazine, Rocking the Boat and Adam Green were recognized in an article entitled The Activists as part of the cover story The Case for National Service. (Green was a 1998 Echoing Green Foundation Fellow.)

Rocking the Boat timemagazine9-10-07

On this Thursday (November 15, 2007), Rocking the Boat will be hosting their Whitehaul Award Fundraiser where they will be recognizing Edmund A. Stanley, Jr. and Jennifer Stanley Founder and President of The Robert Bowne Foundation. From Rocking the Boat’s website:

“In creating The Whitehall Award, Rocking the Boat is proud to recognize leaders in the fields of experiential education, environmental activism, and youth development. The honor is named for the distinctively elegant and practical wooden boat design that forms the majority of Rocking the Boat’s hand-built fleet. The Whitehall represents a “golden period” of maritime design and craftsmanship, its reliable and beautiful form remaining largely consistent since 1690.”

The event will be at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City and I believe that there are tickets still available. So, if you are in the New York area and are interested in helping young people “find a star to steer by,” please considering going and supporting this worthy cause!

Part of the Caring Compassion Charity project involves “tagging” others, so these people need to look out because they are “it”:

  • Will Van Dorp writes my favorite maritime culture blog called tugster: a water blog about “New York harbor, the sixth borough.”
  • John Konrad is a master mariner, webMaster and CEO of, a single stop for all things maritime. He writes a great blog and created a cool Digg-like maritime news website called Discoverer where you can always find something interesting!
  • Scott Allen, PhD is the founder of the Center for Leader Development where he also heads up a team of leadership bloggers of which I’m proud to be included. I met Scott earlier this year as a co-participant in Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s program, The Art and Practice of Leadership Development.
  • Laura Athavale Fitton of Pistachio Consulting writes a must read business blog called Great Presentations Mean Business. A sailor in a past life, Laura is also doing some interesting things on Twitter, the micro-blogging platform. Anyone interested in how business and personal communication technologies are rapidly evolving should follow her here.

Thanks again to Ed Brenegar of Leading Questions for tagging me and giving me the opportunity to introduce a few more people to Rocking the Boat.

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Peter A. Mello

Father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

One thought on “Rocking the Boat changes kids lives”

  1. Any creative thoughts about how we can mitigate the effect of high fuel costs on future interest in restoring the wooden classics?

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