Addison Central Teens Learn Boat Building

By BRIDGET COLLITON

VAN BARTH
Addison Central Teens gather around their construction project.

MIDDLEBURY – For many Middlebury families, February break often serves as a time to spend time with loved ones or enjoy winter sports. Rather than heading to the Snow Bowl or Sugar Bush, however, some Middlebury area teens chose to spend their break working  on something that won’t become useful  until the ice thaws: a sailboat. Since  Feb. 18, the teens have been working in the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center as part of a boat building workshop run by the Middlebury Teen Center. 

Ed McGuire, a volunteer from St. Stephen’s Church and a veteran of the Vergennes maritime museum, spearheaded the project. McGuire is working with the teens to build sailboats out of two sheets 

of plywood. In addition to providing a fun activity until school resumes, building the boats has allowed McGuire to teach them various life skills such as proper power tool usage and craftsmanship.

“[The project] allows the teens to develop new skills that they may not have had the chance to before,” said Devon Karpak, the career center’s Interim Program Manager, in an email to The Campus. 

The workshop runs from 8 a.m. to noon, aligning with Middlebury Union High School’s February break. The teens are provided with both breakfast and lunch before and after the program. Providing these two meals was an important part of the workshop, as the teen center serves many food-insecure teens. 

“We don’t collect a lot of data from our kids, but a lot of them tell us that they get dinner from the teen center,” said Cicilia Robison, an Americorps member serving the teen center.

The boat building workshop aims to further the mission of the teen center; to provide a safe space for teens from all walks of life and of all identities. “We provide a safe, gently supervised place that’s warm and has food. Our goal is to support our teens in whatever way they need,” Robison elaborated. 

The center aims to adhere to its message of unconditional positivity in every interaction with the kids it serves. “There are no bad people, only bad actions. If someone messes up, we talk to them about it, but the next day we’ll act completely normal towards them,” Robison said. 

Aidan Wertz ’22 volunteers regularly with Addison Central Teens. A couple of days a week, Wertz goes to the teen center early to cook breakfast for the participants. “I love being with the kids, they’re super fun to hang out with. It’s fun to see the kids blossom,” Wertz said. 

At the time of publication, about three teens actively participated in the project. The success of the project in attracting participants reflects a greater interest in the teen center as a whole. “We average 15 to 20 kids a day. A year ago, it was six to seven kids a day. So the teen center has grown a lot, and is continuing to grow” Robison said. 

In addition to the boat making project, the teen center provides more casual after school activities as well. Many of these activities take the form of affinity groups, like the center’s LGBTQIA group. The boat building workshop is part of a larger project to increase the number of skills-based activities offered by the center. 

The success of the workshop has created optimism about the future of more hands-on projects in future. “We will actually be offering another opportunity like this to turn the boat from a hull into a full blown sailboat over April Break,” Karpak said in an email. 

More information about Addison Central Teens can be found at https://www.middteens.org.

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