Urban BoatWorks

In partnership with the Camden Shipyard and Maritime Museum, Urban BoatWorks teaches middle and high school youth how to build wooden paddleboats, canoes, and kayaks. Since the program’s first year in 2009, 18 boats have been handcrafted and launched on the water.

BoatWorks' goals go beyond teaching the craft of wooden boat-building. Through working with BoatWorks instructors—nearly all of whom are volunteers—students also learn the skills they need to become productive, responsible adults and leaders among peers. During each build year, they take swimming lessons so that they are prepared to paddle their boats on the water during UrbanPromise’s summer paddling season.

Students of Urban BoatWorks participate in at least 10 on-the-water trips each year. In addition to paddling their hand-made vessels, youth explore local waterways and become both advocates and stewards for their local environment.

Each year, 50 middle and high school students from several Camden schools learn how to build wooden boats and take them out on the water.

40 youth made crafts since 2009, sail boats, kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards have been hand-crafted by Camden youth.

A Master Boat-builder

Kelechi launches the boat he helped build.

Since the first day he stepped foot in the boat shop, Kelechi has always been a “hands-on” kind of student—a good thing, since the craft of wooden boat building requires a certain amount of dexterity with one’s hands.

During his first year in Urban BoatWorks, Kelechi created and sailed a beautiful sunfish dinghy. Though not an easy vessel to build or sail, he fell in love with boat building and continued on in our program through the advanced build class. He calls himself a “master boat-builder.” No one in the boat shop—or in the entire UrbanPromise community—has ever disputed that moniker.

Along with more than 75 Camden youth since 2009, Kelechi has built and sailed nearly 20 canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats. In a city where young people commonly engage in crime and violence, and struggle to find their identity, these youth have decided to take a different path. They have become master boat-builders, boatwrights, and sailors, and developed into responsible, motivated young adults ready to sail through any of life’s challenges and obstacles.