BRUNSWICK — A Portland-based boat-building program for at-risk youth will soon have a satellite program in the Mid-Coast.
The Compass Project, now in its seventh year working with disadvantaged and under-served students, will begin a 16-week program at the Maine Advanced Technology Center on Jan. 26. Students from Morse High School in Bath will take part in the Youth Apprentice Program, where they will build a 15-foot wooden rowing skiff.
MATC, part of Southern Maine Community College’s expansion to Brunswick, will teach the students the latest innovations in composites technology being used in the boat-building industry.
The satellite program is the latest development for the region’s growing composites cluster. In addition to MATC’s move to Brunswick last year, the cluster is moving forward with expansion plans that could help redevelopment of Brunswick Naval Air Station, slated for closure in 2011.
The Compass Project, meanwhile, has been providing hands-on experience for at-risk youth since 2002. Its participants learn the latest building techniques from professional boat builders.
The program also gives students unique job-training opportunities by offering job shadowing and apprenticeships at local boat yards.
Physical training is accompanied by classroom work focusing on reading and writing skills needed for obtaining jobs, including resume writing, filling out applications and following directions.
More than 900 students from greater Portland elementary schools and high schools have participated in The Compass Project, which has been lauded by teachers and social workers for its ability to reach disadvantaged youth.
The program has been offered to Deering High School students the last two years. Its students have built dinghies, skiffs and small sailboats.
The Compass Project is a non-profit school funded by grants, corporate sponsorships and its annual fundraiser, the Boat Building Festival in Portland.
The festival features 15 five-member teams that each build a 12-foot skiff. The boats are then launched at Portland’s East End Beach.
Students participating in The Compass Project in Brunswick will be building a skiff for a Freeport resident.
“When students see the real thing on field trips to Hodgon Yachts and other local boat yards,” program manager Clint Chase said, “it opens their eyes to what they can do with their new skills and knowledge.”
The Compass Project will hold an open house at MATC, 6 Industry Road, on March 3 at 9:30 a.m. For more information, visit compassproject.org.