Founded in 1982 to preserve Alexandria’s maritime heritage, the non-profit Alexandria Seaport Foundation (ASF) began a new program back in 1993 known as the Apprentice Program. The Apprentice Program is still going strong over 25 years later and has become the Foundation’s cornerstone job training program for at-risk young adults between the ages of 16-22. The Apprentice Program has provided disenfranchised young people the career, life and academic skills necessary to secure and maintain employment and/or enroll in post-secondary education. The program has impacted the lives of hundreds of young people in the Washington DC area by opening doors to careers, offering continuing education and/or aid in advanced job training.
The goal of helping to nurture confident young people, and responsible independent adults, involves a multitude of activities so each day at ASF is structured differently. A typical day for a new apprentice might involve working on early curriculum details such as reading blueprints, building entry level items, or learning wood finish techniques. Senior apprentices might be tasked with overseeing larger more advanced projects as a lesson in “project management” while fine tuning their hard skills.
All apprentices are subject to participating in enrichment courses, taught by mentors, which help them prepare for life as an adult. Additionally, some apprentices are working towards attaining their GED and are given time and assistance to work towards that goal.
The parents of an apprentice offered this reflection (all names omitted to protect privacy): “Our son began his apprenticeship soon after he was released from jail. That transitional time was very difficult, and he desperately needed the structure and stability that the program offered, in addition to the mentorship and guidance. He was taught boat building, carpentry, sailing and many other practical skills, but, more importantly, he was taught by example how to live a successful and productive life. We can never repay the program for guiding our son from a turbulent past to a very promising future. We believe that it has made all the difference in his life, and we will forever be grateful for all that has been given to him.”
The participants in the program fully appreciate what ASF has brought to their lives. When asked about their participation in the programs, apprentices respond with comments such as, “Alexandria Seaport Foundation helped me become the best version of myself” or “ASF has provided me with the environment I needed to succeed. A safe haven to make progress.“
Through a comprehensive screening process, ASF identifies any personal barriers to success and works with individual apprentices to develop strategies for overcoming them. This includes connecting them to community resources for stable housing, financial support, medical care, substance abuse counseling and/or mental health support. Additionally, staff and volunteers assist apprentices with life skills such as opening bank accounts, obtaining drivers’ licenses and civil documents necessary for employment and compliance with court requirements.
However each day, month, or year unfolds, it’s clear that ASF is making a significant difference in the lives of the young people who participate.
Certainly a heritage to be proud of.