“As a Rocking the Boat student during three years of high school, I was constantly being encouraged and challenged. Even as a young person, I was trusted with big responsibilities. It felt great—I was able to make a difference! Maybe most importantly, my Program Director and the Social Workers made me feel genuinely cared for. It meant so much. There is no question that I have taken so much of my Rocking the Boat experience into my education and career. I have worked with children of incarcerated parents and currently work with individuals with criminal convictions. My father spent time in jail and was deported back to DR, so I can personally identify with what they’re going through.”
— Stephanie earned her BA in Psychology from SUNY Polytechnic Institute. She is the Manager of Participant Wellness and Special Projects at the Center for Employment Opportunities, a 30-year old nonprofit providing job readiness, employment opportunities, and placement services for people with criminal records.
Tito grew up just blocks from the Bronx River, and yet can’t remember ever going to the water until a seventh grade teacher signed him up for a Rocking the Boat summer program—planting the seeds of a relationship that continues to bloom to this day. Six years later, 19-year old Tito is a college sophomore and a Boatbuilding Program Assistant.
“Day one, I’m coming in, everyone was doing different tasks, sawdust was flying all over me. If I was alone it would have been difficult. But I had a Program Assistant I clicked with. Whenever I needed help I would run to her. But she asked me a lot of questions, too, and we became close friends.” Tito’s Rocking the Boat experience has truly come full circle as a Program Assistant, as he builds a mentoring relationships with new students. “I thought about my Program Assistant, and how important it was to talk to students about other things, ask them about school, just build a relationship. I do that now. I have a student – I just ask him how he is and talk about football – but now he comes to me when he needs help. It’s inspiring.” When Rocking the Boat invites the public in to see the boats, and to watch them be launched in the Bronx River for the first time, Tito feels a special pride. “I can tell people I built that boat. I have my name written on that boat, under the paint.”
In approaching his studies, Tito draws from lessons he learned at Rocking the Boat. “In carpentry we say ‘squared,’ it means working the wood to perfect, 90-degree edges. Trying to get something squared is hard. It teaches you to pay attention to little things. I use it when I write papers for school. I reread it, I let other people read it. Going over line by line, I’ve adopted that habit.”
— Tito attends Hostos Community College in the Bronx, currently weighing degrees in criminal justice or fire science, and is working his third semester as a Program Assistant.