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spotlight on ambitious goals

“Don’t stay miserable where you know deep down you aren’t happy. Follow your gut, take risks, face your fears. Turn to wherever you feel supported. For me, that was Rocking the Boat.” - Leslie

As a 17-year-old high school senior, Leslie’s next step was clear to everyone, except Leslie. Her guidance counselor and teachers, her family and friends were all dead set on her going to college. Privately, she questioned whether it was the right choice for her. She didn’t know what she would—or even wanted—to get out of it but felt like she would be letting people down if she did otherwise. She registered that fall at Lehman College but was uninterested in her classes and burdened by her student loans. Leslie paused after her freshman year to take stock.

Out of school and in need of support, she turned to the place she could count on: Rocking the Boat and Social Worker Stevi. Leslie explained that her two years in the Boatbuilding Program during her junior and senior years of high school had taught her that she was a hands-on learner. She also kept coming back to how much she had enjoyed being involved in theater back in high school. Productions like Legally Blond, Into the Woods, Beauty and the Beast, and In the Heights were a blast. Stevi helped Leslie connect the dots between carpentry and theater and they started researching technical training programs. Before long, Leslie made a three-year commitment to the Roundabout Theatrical Workforce Development Program, majoring in carpentry and minoring in lighting. The program is highly structured and had Leslie interning in Roundabout’s Blackbox as a stagehand and operating the light board and eventually working for both the New 42nd Street Theater and the New 42 Studios and the New Victory Theater.

The young woman who four years ago didn’t really know what she wanted to do and didn’t see any paths forward now sees abundant possibilities in her future. “I have so many ideas! I may go back to school to study lighting design. My long-term goal is to open my own theater in the Bronx.”

Kareem visited SUNY Binghamton’s campus with Rocking the Boat as a high school junior and was sure that was where he wanted to go away to school. “It was a very welcoming environment. I wanted that freedom!” In the meantime, freedom was having his own car, an Acura RSX, and the opportunity to learn how to fix and modify it himself (with the help of several mechanics in his family). Reem, as he prefers to be called, ultimately stuck closer to home and enrolled at Bronx Community College, which is known to have a strong automotive program. He started classes during the onset of the pandemic. Like Leslie, Reem excels at kinesthetic learning and quickly discovered that college classes, especially online, were not doing it for him. He left the program after a few weeks, unsure what to do from there.

Once things reopened after the pandemic lockdown, Reem got a part-time job at Rocking the Boat. Here, working with Rocking the Boat Social Worker, Bria, he realized he should put his energy into attending an automotive trade school. Bria took him to visit three schools including New York Auto and Diesel Institute. “They had all kinds of cars, electric, even 18-wheelers. I wanted to start that day!” The tuition at NYADI exceeded Reem’s budget, though. Bria also introduced him to Co-op Tech, which offered a shorter program and a more convenient class schedule. He will start the course this summer while continuing to work as a Boatbuilding Program Assistant, where his mechanical skills are already an asset. And Reem’s mechanical mind has already been put to use at Rocking the Boat: Director of Sailing Juan Pablo regularly pulls Reem over to look at Rocking the Boat’s outboard engines when they give him trouble. Reem envisions opening his own mechanic shop in the Bronx, where he might also work on boat engines. Rocking the Boat will be his first customer!

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

Rocking the Boat is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Download Form 990.