spotlight stories

spotlight on mentoring

Mentoring has always been at the heart of Rocking the Boat’s approach to youth development.  Boatbuilding Program Assistants, for example, just a few years older than new students tentatively handling a block plane for the first time, are always ready to answer questions and offer friendly guidance.  Their counterparts in the Environmental Science Program know immediately how to calm the butterflies out of a new student during her first time in a rowboat.  They’ve been there.  
Starting this summer, the mentoring model will carry over into helping Rocking the Boat grads starting their freshman year of college or trade school.  Because while a battalion of post-secondary supports—academic tutoring, cash scholarships, campus tours, essay writing workshops, and financial aid counseling—have all helped achieve a steady rate of 96% of alumni immediately enrolling in college or a training program after high school, only about half are finishing their Bachelor’s degrees within a six-year timeframe.  And a great percentage of those who drop out do so within the first two years.  Enter the mentors, peers uniquely positioned to help students address obstacles like adjusting to unfamiliar environments, attending schools with little diversity, and, like 60% of program graduates, being the first in their families to go to college.  Support and advice from mentors, close in age and experience to their student mentees, can often be accepted in a much different light than from a parent, teacher, or other adult.
The new Alumni Mentoring Program has identified 17 Rocking the Boat graduates with successful college experiences, and provided them with mentor training and program planning opportunities during a weekend retreat that took place in June.  At the retreat, mentors designed and ran many of the training sessions, discussed the responsibilities of their role and best practices, rehearsed conversation scenarios they are likely to have with their mentees, and were exposed to mental health first aid (a course for people to identify, understand, and respond to the early signs and symptoms of mental illness and substance misuse).  In July, the mentors were matched with the 17 students who requested a peer mentor.  Consistent support throughout the first two years of college will take the form of participation in group activities, minimum twice-monthly one-on-one phone calls and emails, as well as three annual lunches or dinners (on Rocking the Boat).  It is anticipated that this added level of peer support—long a closely held value at Rocking the Boat—combined with the support already provided from the Director of Social Work will have a significant impact on new college students’ initial success and ultimate persistence.

boris and cory

boris and cory

“The mentoring program is an amazing opportunity. We both want to become social workers, we both grew up in the ‘hood. Having so much in common and relating on so many fronts is going to help each of us stay on track and achieve what we want.”

Boris, recipient of the 2018 Pete and Toshi Seeger Alumni Award, was with Rocking the Boat’s Boatbuilding Program from 2008 to 2011.  He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Social Work at Nyack College.  The three high school years that Cory, also a Boatbuilder, spent at Rocking the Boat inspired him to become a social worker. He will enter Guttman Community College, a CUNY school, in the fall to pursue that dream.

cat and marieta

cat and marieta

“We are so similar and get along so well together, everyone at Rocking the Boat thinks we’re twins! Our colleges are both really far from the Bronx, a different world, so it is really helpful to have someone who knows the deal to talk to about that. Rocking the Boat gave us so much support all through high school; the Mentoring Program is yet another way they are helping us reach our goals.”

Catherine, aka “Cat”, one of three members of her family to join Rocking the Boat, participated in the Sailing Program from 2015 to 2018. She will enroll in college this fall seven hours away from the Bronx at the University of Maine to study marine science. After being with Rocking the Boat in 2012 and 2013 and returning for several summers as a Program Assistant, Marieta is in her senior year at St. Lawrence University, more than six hours north of the City on the Canadian border. After learning the ropes, she hopes to start her own event production company.

kids don’t just build boats, boats build kids

rocking the boat
812 edgewater road
bronx, ny 10474
phone: 718.466.5799
fax: 718.466.2892