By Caroline Conzatti, CBC Assistant Director
“CBC has been a huge confidence boost for me in the past four years. Sailing makes me feel more free and like I can overcome obstacles. I love to share this feeling with others.”
– Carlyn, CBC Junior Instructor
Community Boating Center, Inc. in New Bedford, MA is a youth mentorship and outreach organization that uses boating and the marine environment to involve kids in safe, fun learning experiences.
The current Coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyone in different ways, including those of us associated with CBC. Our full-time staff began working from home in early March and we had to cancel the remainder of our winter programming and the entirety of our spring program schedule. Despite the closure of our facility, we have been staying busy both serving our community as best we can now and looking towards the near future at our options for the summer.
Shortly after Massachusetts’s stay-at-home order was issued, we launched our eLearning Portal (which is currently the homepage of our website, communityboating.org), and we’ve been updating it ever since. Our staff is both creating original content and curating and sharing other online resources. We have explored online content from the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Mystic Aquarium and the Boston Museum of Science, to name a few. We have turned our own exploration of these resources into fun and engaging content to encourage our constituents to check them out.
Our senior staff has also been working with our Junior Instructors on transforming some of our best STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons into online content. We have filmed videos about how to make a paper boat (which can be printed from our website) and featuring activities from our H2O Olympics learning module. Our hope is that these activities provide a learning experience, which is also fun, entertaining and connects kids to the ocean and to their experiences at CBC.
We realize that once social distancing is relaxed, youth programs like ours will be more important than ever. Children, and their parents, will surely be craving outdoor activities with a new ferocity and kids will be anxious to interact in person with their peers once again. Particularly in a gateway city such as New Bedford, our offerings can play an important role in children’s education and social emotional learning. We take this role seriously and realize that we need to do everything we can to try and re-open for summer programming, while continuing to remember our credo of safety, fun and learning, which now has a new meaning and importance.
We are currently exploring various options for summer programming, including how we can best use our existing facilities to serve as many children as we can while still maintaining appropriate social distancing. We are also looking at other bodies of water in the area where we may be able to run smaller satellite programs or land-based programs in local parks. We understand that transportation can be a huge barrier and if we are not able to bring kids to us, we want to get to them as best we can. Another option may be doing our programming in shifts, again to serve as many kids as we can in a day while still keeping them safe. Happily, many of these options give us new opportunities to work with other local organizations, building off existing partnerships and creating new ones. These new relationships, our newfound resilience, and improved procedures and ability to interact with an even larger audience online will lead to an even stronger organization in the future.
Our flagship program is our Summer Youth Sailing program, which runs for eight one-week sessions in July and August. We serve students age 5-17, including experienced sailors and kids who have never been in the ocean before. Each week we see familiar faces of kids who come back year after year making friends with kids who are new to our organization, and often, to sailing itself. While anyone is welcome to sign up for our summer program and pay, last summer 85% of our participants applied for and received financial aid.
In addition to our youth programs, we also offer Adult Sailing lessons and a US Powerboating Safe Powerboat Handling course. Registration is now open for all summer programs, and the fees for these programs help to fund our youth programs.
New Bedford’s identity is tied to the sea. It was the 19th century whaling capital of the world; today it is the #1 commercial fishing port in the nation; and it is now poised to be the launching point of the largest offshore wind farm in the U.S. However, it is also among the poorest cities in Massachusetts, making its youth especially vulnerable both in school and after. CBC engages kids in learning positive and practical life skills that will allow them to steer toward a successful future, whether in college, the workforce, or as a leader in their community.
Since our founding in 1998, CBC has grown to serve over 2,500 kids per year, the majority of whom are from economically disadvantaged families. CBC connects these Greater New Bedford youth to the water through a wide range of year-round programs providing youth development, education, mentorship, and access to a network of community partners.
Every time a CBC student steps into a boat, pulls the tiller, or trims a sail they are experiencing hands-on, powerful lessons. Sailing encourages individuals to come together as a team and overcome challenges together. Our Summer Youth Sailing Program is designed as a step-by-step process in character development, instilling positive life values such as trust, integrity, sound judgment, and teamwork. The program is accessible to all, and 85% of participants attend free of charge.
CBC’s year-round education programs, both in-school and out of school, provide youth with hands-on learning opportunities that emphasize math, engineering, creativity, and teamwork. CBC’s approach to STEM learning puts students at the helm of the learning process, with the instructor acting as facilitator as they learn to build a boat or design and build a model wind turbine or a remote-controlled sailboat.
CBC’s goal is to mentor all children from the first time they enter a program to when they graduate high school and beyond. Our mentorship model has developed full circle through the Junior Instructor program. Our staff, from Executive Director to Junior Instructors, provides children with positive role models. Studies have shown that youth with mentors are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities, graduate from high school, and volunteer.
The success of CBC’s programs involves collaboration with schools, other organizations, and marine-related businesses that provide subject matter expertise as well as connections in the community for future opportunities.
Junior Instructor Program
Realizing the need in the community for a youth program designed to build leadership and real life job skills, CBC started the Junior Instructor (JI) program in 2015. The aim is to help 14- to 18-year-olds through the transition from high school to college or directly onto a career path, by providing them with training, a support network, and exposure to opportunities that could transform their lives.
According to the National Mentoring Partnership, young adults who were at risk for falling off track but had mentors are 55% more likely to enroll in college and 130% more likely to become leaders themselves. Mentored by CBC’s senior staff, JIs can become certified instructors in the Summer Youth Sailing program and help conduct CBC’s school programs. Developing their abilities to teach, lead and inspire, JIs become the bridge to the next generation of CBC participants – serving as role models and expanding CBC’s reach in the community.
To increase opportunities for youth, CBC is introducing training in such marine-related trades as aquaculture, and partnering with local businesses to provide internship connections that can help them get marketable skills in areas of growing demand in New Bedford and beyond, such as marinas, offshore wind energy, and biotechnology. We encourage you to learn more about our programs and organization by visiting our website at communityboating.org. ■