September 09, 2016
Rocking the Boat empowers young people from the South Bronx 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. Kids don't just build boats, boats build kids.
Rocking the Boat participants, nearly all from Hunts Point and surrounding neighborhoods, deeply and daily feel the effects of living in the poorest Congressional District in the nation. More than one-third of the District’s total population and half of the district’s children live below the poverty line and the area consistently has double the unemployment rate of the metropolitan area as a whole. These disheartening statistics are compounded by the City’s strained and unbalanced educational system. 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 33%. Too many students get caught in a cycle of failure starting with dropping out of high school and skipping college. Without intervention they are likely to engage in destructive behaviors including gang involvement, substance use, street crime, and to become parents before they are ready.
Rocking the Boat’s fleet currently numbers 49 rowing boats and sailboats. Students work with skilled carpenters and experienced environmental scientists learning and applying the math, science, design, carpentry, and maritime skills necessary to complete their projects, and in the process gain self confidence, leadership skills, and a real sense of inner strength. They also work regularly with staff social workers on academic and social-emotional issues, college guidance, and venture outside their comfort zones on long distance rowing, sailing, and camping trips, as well as to a range of collegiate and professional environments. As a result of all this, Rocking the Boat students are more successful in school, are accepted to college at much higher rates, and have done more to develop the character traits that will lead to long-term success.