50 Camden youth + 30 weeks = 10 handmade boats

View Urban BoatWorks photos.  Available to use by request. »

In an old shipyard building on Broadway in Camden, middle schoolers gather to learn a unique trade in the city: boat building. Completely engrossed with power tools this week, they used drills and wire to connect several plywood portions of the boat form and watched their boat begin to take shape. Their learning extends beyond the craft to include elements of math and science, and very intentionally integrated lessons on teamwork and responsibility.

Now in its fifth year, UrbanPromise’s Urban BoatWorks program engages approximately 50 middle and high school students from Camden. This year, with the support of the Subaru Foundation, Catholic Partnership Schools of Camden is also participating in the BoatWorks program, providing children from Sacred Heart School with the opportunity to access this great resource. The students spend 30 weeks building a boat, transforming plywood into a working water vessel. Most kids then experience boating for the first time— in their own boat—at UrbanPromise’s annual spring boat launch.

Central to the mission of UrbanPromise, boat building serves as a mechanism to engage youth during critical after-school hours. A high school student named Adrian helps regularly at the shop, patiently teaching the 6th-8th graders from Sacred Heart. “There’s no place I’d rather be after school,” says Adrian, recognizing that he could easily get into trouble if he were not engaged at BoatWorks. He describes himself as very angry when he came to the UrbanPromise Academy for high school, but over the past 3 years, he has seen his life transform. Adrian says he was stuck in a way of life that wasn’t healthy and was less about what he really wanted, and more about what he felt was available to him. He talked about the consistent support of UrbanPromise staff and believes they nurtured something in him that was good, despite his defiance at school. Because they persisted, he began to believe what they saw in him. Now a gentle-mannered role model for younger kids, Adrian is looking forward to finishing his final high school classes and attending a mechanical school in Pennsylvania, where he can build on what he’s learned at BoatWorks.

About UrbanPromise

UrbanPromise is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing children and youth with the supports they need to succeed academically, grow spiritually, and prepare for leadership that will bring positive change to their communities. This is accomplished through after-school programs, summer camps, job training, two schools, experiential learning, and a host of other enrichment activities. To learn more, please visit www.urbanpromiseusa.org.

Visit our website for more information about Urban BoatWorks: http://www.urbanpromiseusa.org/our-programs/boatworks


Shannon Oberg 
Creative Director, UrbanPromise

Tel: 609.876.9958

E: shannonoberg@gmail.com