spotlight stories

spotlight on public programs: bronx river camp and sailing camp

Connecting with nature, rowing, hiking, fishing, sailing…all activities that might, for good reason, come to mind when you think about summer camp fun. Rocking the Boat campers have been enjoying all of those memorable experiences and many others this July and August, while at the same time learning important lessons about how to use the Bronx River safely and responsibly. Because high levels of bacteria pollute the water after heavy rain storms and make the river dangerous for swimming, Rocking the Boat’s summer camps create ways for young people to enjoy the river on hot summer days without being submerged: they sail, row, catch and then release fish, and become inspired to serve as Bronx River stewards. Campers from New Settlement Apartments, St. Ignatius School, and Graham Windham all returned for the third summer to participate in two-week long, environmentally themed Bronx River Camp sessions, while Community Boat Works of the Hudson Valley, Hope Leadership Academy, New Heights Youth, and three local Girl Scout troops were among the groups that enjoyed their own special program days. Supplementing Rocking the Boat’s staff of seven Environmental Program Assistants to teach the sessions were nine students from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School serving as counselors in training. They helped to set up boats and keep the campers, mostly sets of between 15 and 25 excited middle schoolers, on task.

Fannie Lou, which sent 40 students to Rocking the Boat’s first year-long On-Water Classroom Program throughout the 2015-2016 school year, was also the source of Rocking the Boat’s crop of Sailing campers. Rocking the Boat’s six Sailing apprentices passed a course to become US Sailing Counselors and taught 11 Fannie Lou sophomores and juniors who had never before set foot on a boat the names and functions of all the parts of the boats, the points of sail, how to row (when there was no wind), and how to tie nautical knots. Capsizing—every new sailor’s worst nightmare—was addressed early in the season during a day of drills and practicing and then, as if planned (it wasn’t), the following day one boat with four campers on board fully turtled! Everyone stayed calm and remembered their training, righted the boat, and got past their fear! As hoped, several campers have expressed interest in enrolling in the sailing track of the Youth Development program when school starts back up in September.

Sharing Rocking the Boat’s dedication to getting urban youth outdoors in the summertime, the J.E. and Z.B. Butler Foundation proposed the idea of developing Bronx River Camp in 2014. Sailng Camp benefited from generous grants from 11th Hour Racing and TK Foundation, and from all the participants in this past spring’s Whitehall Award. We are thrilled to have such ongoing enthusiasm and support and to have brought more than 200 South Bronx kids out on the water this season. 

what kids might write in letters home from Bronx River Camp and Sailing Camp…

“The kids teach me as much as I am teaching them! There was this one boy, Jeremy. You could tell, he thought he was so cool and was like, ‘I’m not doing this.’ I could identify with that because, at first, I didn’t think I would enjoy the experience either. But at the end of Jeremy’s group’s first day, it was so hot, everyone started a water fight. He couldn’t help himself and joined in. After that he came off the sidelines and really got into it for the whole rest of the session. It made me so happy to see him let his guard down and have fun.”
“I would like to have races. And flip! I want us to sail on our own without the apprentices.”

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