Community boating center will be hub for new school marine program

Community boating center will be hub for new school marine program

Students from Birchwood Middle and Ricci Middle School, last Wednesday, presented the first boats they built as part of a new marine technology program to town officials at Camp Meehan. Students christened the boats "Aeolus," left and "St. Brendan," right.(Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Who would have imagined that this little town with borders far from the ocean would one day launch a successful boating program?

Participants say it's hard to believe that North Providence will soon be one of just three schools in the state to have a full-fledged marine technology program for its students. The new focus on boats will have a far-ranging impact on the town, bringing a community boating center to the new and improved Camp Meehan and Notte Park property. Once developed, residents will regularly be allowed to take the boats out on the water.

Last school year, a group of students from Birchwood Middle School and Ricci Middle School, under the leadership of technology education teachers Richard Torti and Matt Moniz, constructed the two small sailboats with the hopes of launching a marine technology program.

Students from Birchwood and Ricci, along with their technology education teachers and other school and town officials, met for a special ceremony at Camp Meehan on the Wenscott Reservoir last Wednesday to christen the first two boats made as part of the program. The Birchwood boat was named "St. Brendan" for the Irish monk, while the Ricci boat was named the "Aeolus" for the Greek god of wind.

The hope, according to Moniz, is to build larger boats this year as the program expands to the high school level, where teacher Mike Daley will keep students engaged.

"Our hope is this will really catch on," said Moniz. "This is a state that provides a lot of opportunity for this type of trade."

The plan, according to Moniz, is to build a couple of new boats every year until North Providence has a fleet of watercraft.

Mackenzee Stanley, a 14-year-old Ricci student, said she loved working on the "Aeolus" last year and plans to continue in the marine program this year. Though she doesn't know what she wants to do for a career yet, said Stanley, it's exciting that the marine program is giving students like herself a chance to get their feet wet while creating boats to be enjoyed by the whole community.

Guidance and support for the project came from City Sail Inc., a nonprofit organization that teaches boat building and sailing. Henry Marciano, director of City Sail Inc. and a friend of Mayor Charles Lombardi, said he approached Lombardi several months back about bringing a marine program to Camp Meehan.

"This has been a dream of mine for a very long time," said Marciano.

Marciano said he is trying to get marine technology programs in all schools in Rhode Island, but still has a long way to go. Ideally, the program will help schools like North Providence High School develop connections within the boating industry, he said, while giving students an activity they can be excited about.

Lombardi said he knew right away when Marciano approached him that his boat lover friend was the one "who could make this happen," even for a town where few would dream of developing a boating center.

"He gets things done," said Lombardi. "I think this is going to be great."

Working as a consultant with the technology education teachers at the middle and high school levels, Marciano was able to assist the North Providence School Department in acquiring a Perkins grant to develop a full-fledged marine technology program at the middle and high school level.

School Supt. Melinda Smith said that having someone like Marciano who is so passionate about boats, and a group of technology education teachers who are so behind the new program, will make a world of difference in making it a success and keeping it going into the future.