Situated on the shores of the Potomac, this is no ordinary boathouse. These friendly rowboats may welcome budding seafarers, but they also happen to mark the home of the Alexandria Seaport Foundation (ASF) – a program designed to give at-risk youth the skills they need to navigate the sometimes (most times?) choppy waters of adulthood.
Initially founded in 1982 to acquire and maintain a historically significant schooner for the city, ASF’s mission evolved a decade later with the construction of the pictured McIhenny Seaport Center. Seeing a need for programs to help the young communities of Alexandria, the foundation began its work in teaching youth employable trades – and has been doing so ever since.
Working with trained craftsmen and senior mentors, the ASF Apprentice Program provides opportunities for teens to learn the ropes of rowing, sailing, and even the traditional techniques of boat building. The program has successfully constructed replicas for multiple museums along the East Coast – including the Mount Vernon estate of George Washington.
While the woodworking and technical skills are employable – and enjoyable – the foundation is not all about the trades. They make it a point to also nurture practical needs as well, from financial skills to resume writing, and most importantly, self care.
Though boats may be the physical outcome of the foundation’s work, the lives and relationships it has helped build for its community are stronger and more sturdy than any seafaring vessel. Many trainees from its programs end up coming back to mentor the next generation, citing the importance of ASF in building stability for themselves, their boats, and the future of their city.