Beautiful Boats and Much More: A Visit to the Alexandria Seaport Foundation

 alexandria_seaport_foundation_logo           My first efforts to locate the Alexandria Seaport Foundation perhaps best reflect most Alexandrians knowledge of the organization. I went to the Seaport Center, near the Torpedo Factory in Old Town, where I had always admired the foundation’s beautiful dockside building and the boats I saw inside. However, I quickly learned that this building is a mere showcase for the Foundation, as its real work goes on several blocks away, in a warehouse at 2 Duke Street. At this location, known as the Robinson Terminal, the ASF trains and mentors ten to fifteen local young people in its Apprentice Program. As Kent Barnekov, the Executive Director of the ASF explained, the Apprentice Program employs disadvantaged youths from the ages of 17-22 and instructs them in boatbuilding, carpentry, and general skills designed to ease their transition into the workforce.

           Apprentices at the Seaport Foundation split their days between boatbuilding projects and classroom instruction. This class time is often geared toward students who have not graduated high school and enables them to obtain a GED. The Alexandria school system or courts refer at-risk young people to the program, which stresses discipline and a strong work ethic. Barnekov is pleased to report that the majority of program participants graduate and move forward, either to job placements with local contractors and carpenters or to higher education.

            The ASF also facilitates after-school and summer programs for students at T.C. Williams and Hammond Middle School. These programs provide a structured environment for at-risk youths who might otherwise become involved in criminal activities during their free time. However, the student-apprentices come to the ASF not simply for an after-school activity, but also for active assistance in their schoolwork. Barnekov is particularly proud of a recent group of students who, after hands-on mathematical training through the construction of miniature dories—small model sailboats—and guitars, all passed their standardized math exams at school. 

           The Seaport Foundation is always seeking new donors to support its excellent apprentice program in Alexandria. Barnekov stressed that the Foundation operates on the generosity of its many donors, but he has seen a diminished level of giving in the past several years coinciding with the worsening economy. Alexandrians can help out in other ways, too. The ASF welcomes volunteers to assist with the apprentice program, and also holds an open shop night Tuesdays from 7-9 PM. To learn more about volunteer and giving opportunities, visit the ASF’s Volunteer page.


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