HUNTS POINT — South Bronx kids are learning how to sail this summer from their peers.
The organization Rocking the Boat, a nonprofit that teaches youths how to row, sail, build boats and help restore the Bronx River, just launched its inaugural class of Sailing Apprentices, a group of high school students from The Bronx who spent the spring getting ready to teach middle school students from the borough the secrets of sailing.
Adam Green, executive director of Rocking the Boat, said that learning how to sail from local instructors was very helpful for the students, especially given how unusual it can seem to hop on a sailboat in the South Bronx.
“It’s really a way for them to grow more comfortable with it and see oh, wait, kids who look like me, who I might even know from the neighborhood, are doing this and enjoying it and modeling confidence and fun,” he said.
Joshua Evans, a 13-year-old Hunts Point resident going into eighth grade, agreed that having people from The Bronx teach him how to sail made it much easier for him to relate to his instructors.
He said this also made him feel more confident that they actually knew what they were doing while out on the water.
"If you're from a different neighborhood, you don't really know the river," he said.
The program takes place at Hunts Point Riverside Park and consists of a pair of two-week sessions for four days per week, the second of which just started on Monday.
The Sailing Apprentices are supervised by graduates of Rocking the Boat who have trained as sailors and powerboat drivers.
The Sailing Apprentices program is not just meant to help middle school students learn how to sail. It also aims to help prepare their high school teachers for possible careers as sailing instructors, according to Green.
“What’s the job associated with sailing?" he asked. "Sailing is a sport. It's recreation. It’s not like building a boat or restoring a river, and it seemed like teaching other people to sail would make the most sense.”
One of this year's instructors is 16-year-old Zania Seneriz, a Soundview resident who will be a junior next year.
Although she said that teaching could be a challenge, particularly when dealing with people at different skill levels, she maintained that being a native Bronxite made it much easier to relate to her young charges.
"I'm from The Bronx, and I'm not ashamed of it," she said. "And I like teaching, and it's great that something like this is happening in The Bronx."
She added that people are often shocked to learn about her job as a budding sailing instructor.
"They're not surprised that I live in The Bronx," she said, "but they're surprised that I teach kids sailing and that I sail."