Building Kids by Building Boats: Take the Helm Begins


It was on the banks of the Bronx River in 2014, sandwiched between a massive recycling facility and of one of the largest food distribution facilities in the world, Talbot County community leaders Al and Marty Sikes and Richard Marks and Amy Haines discovered Adam Green and his not-for-profit organization Rocking the Boat. Focused on empowering young people from the South Bronx to develop self-confidence, at Rocking the Boat, students work together to build wooden boats, learn to row and sail, and restore local urban waterways, revitalizing their community while creating better lives for themselves. Their motto, kids don’t just build boats at Rocking the Boat, boats build kids.


screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-9-16-51-amWondering if a similar program could be introduced in our community to benefit high school students here, Al Sikes invited Adam to visit and meet with other leaders of youth serving organizations. Encouraged by Adam’s response after visiting and YMCA of the Chesapeake’s offer to provide space and support, an advisory board was formed that included key personnel from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Talbot Mentors and Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy. The name Take the Helm was chosen and Robbie Gill, the CEO of the Y, organized a bus trip for members of the new advisory board, staff from the YMCA and a few students to see the program in the Bronx firsthand. Rocking the Boat Founder and Director Adam Green, retained as a consultant to Take The Helm, spoke about the new program in Talbot County. “ I’ve hosted plenty of people from different communities over the years hoping to create a program similar to our Program in the Bronx, Al and Richard and the team they’ve assembled in Talbot County is first class and I have no doubt, they’ll find success”.

Take the Helm is a boat-building program designed to engage high-school students in a hands-on, skill based enrichment program that utilizes the art of wooden boat building to strengthen student’s self-confidence, sense of community and teamwork, and to empower them to achieve their dreams. Take the Helm participants will build wooden boats from the ground up that will help them develop a range of technical skills that are highly transferable to both the academic and working worlds. From studying building plans to assembling, building and launching the boats into local waters, students will learn the ins and outs of wooden boat screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-9-17-01-ambuilding in a working, team environment.

While boat-building lies at the core of the program, it is also used as a vehicle to enhance the personal and professional lives of these students. Participants will climb a ladder of increasing responsibility and learn about current and future opportunities, including college and career paths; gain access to social and academic services; and both set and accomplish personal and educational goals.

Located at the Easton Family YMCA, The program will be open to all high school students (grades 9-12) in the Talbot County area, whether they are a YMCA member or not. The program will launch the week of January 9, 2017 and will run as an after school program. The program is free for all participants.

To learn more about Take the Helm and how to get involved, contact Adam Hollis at 410-822-0566 or email at

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