Hudson River Community Sailing: Inspiring NYC youth through STEM and Sailing


Each year, 150 students from nine public high schools in New York City, each with a unique story, participate in Sail Academy, a four-year youth development program at Hudson River Community Sailing (HRCS). HRCS students learn to sail, build wooden boats, and receive academic credit through an after-school program that uses STEM curriculum and US Sailing’s Reach initiative.

This is where Dawn Jones and Sam Rosario met a few years ago.

Dawn lives in Canarsie, Brooklyn, and takes the train to school in Manhattan for an hour and half each way. She lives with her grandparents and mother, who is a patient’s care assistant, and who also goes to school three nights a week. Dawn has been working on learning Yourba, the first language of her mother, who emigrated from Nigeria.

Sam Rosario grew up in the Bronx. By the time he was 10, his mother had passed away and his father left, so he moved in with his grandmother at the public housing development in Manhattan near HRCS on Pier 66.  He says he got into trouble when he was younger  and had to switch middle schools, but he tested well and was admitted to NYC Lab, a specialty high school on the west side of Manhattan.

Both Dawn and Sam joined Sail Academy in their freshman year of high school.  Dawn says her mother forced her to get on a boat, and that she was scared the first time she left the dock. Sam jokes that he wanted to be a pirate and figured sailing was his way to that career.

In their first year, Dawn said she and Sam were like cats and dogs—she is effusive but naturally shy; he is thoughtful and outgoing. But together, they learned how to build an anemometer, how buoyancy and water dynamics worked and how to measure and cut wood to build small wooden prams.

After finishing their first year of Sail Academy, Dawn and Sam received academic credit in math and science. Sam realized he loved to sail fast and started racing during the adult Tuesday night series where he became the regular skipper of the student team. Dawn started volunteering with ninth grade students, helping them build the boats she and Sam had made the year before. They became good friends and learned to work together through a leadership-focused internship their first summer.

Since its founding in 2008, HRCS has developed leadership and academic success in underserved New York City youth through sailing education. In 2016, approximately 500 students will participate in HRCS’ proven STEM curriculum, in addition to US Sailing’s Reach initiative programming. The students explore wind and weather patterns, marine debris and ecology, while learning to sail.

“US Sailing’s Reach initiative is honored to work with HRCS, because their programming, instructors, and students are one of a kind,” said Jessica Servis, US Sailing Reach Program Manager. “This initiative aims to increase quality of STEM education and inspire future environmental stewards through sailing.
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