Building Character and Confidence

5/27/2016

Subaru of America Foundation Helps Urban BoatWorks Inspire Kids

Take inner city youth and put them together with an outdoor educator who is passionate about showing them the possibilities of the wider world. Then teach them to build … boats. 

That’s Urban BoatWorks, part of UrbanPromise in Camden, New Jersey, where for years volunteer Jim Cummings took kids on various outdoor trips, from New Jersey’s Pine Barrens to Maine to the Florida Everglades. Then he got a bigger idea.

Urban boatworks director Jim Cummings
Students working

Building Vessels

Supported by a grant from the Subaru of America Foundation, Urban BoatWorks has grown from five teens in 2009 to 60 students and 15 volunteers. Cummings is now the UrbanPromise director of experiential learning. The teens transform wood into canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and sailboats, then test them in the Cooper River. 

Urban BoatWorks isn’t so much an apprenticeship as a boot camp for problem solving, persistence, and craftsmanship, captured in its motto: 

Building character, one boat at a time.

Launching Young Lives

“Time passed a lot quicker in the shop than outside of it,” says former builder Chris Williams, now studying at Rutgers University. “Knowing that I played a part in crafting something that could be useful changed my relationship with work,” Williams muses. “My work breathed when I was in the shop.” 

Learn more about Urban Promise at urbanpromiseusa.org

Urban BoatWorks teens transform wood into canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and sailboats.
Urban BoatWorks teens transform wood into canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and sailboats.