Listening to our community: Rocking the Boat

11th Hour Racing fosters systemic change to restore ocean health β€” our vision for the future includes cleaner, healthier waterways through strong local stewardship and collective action. As the climate crisis intensifies, it disproportionately creates more severe impacts on low-income communities.

As part of our commitment to a more just, sustainable future, we are working to amplify our grantees’ voices in a new blog series — Listen, Connect, Build. In this series, we listen to students and alumni from some of the fantastic organizations we are proud to support that increase ocean stewardship, access, and literacy in underserved communities.

Jasmine Benitez, Environmental Student Program Director, Rocking the Boat (Hunts Point, N.Y.)

What’s the most important aspect of your work?

The most important aspect of my work is to become someone that my students look up to and trust. The maritime and environmental work I do with them is simply a platform for me to open their eyes to the wide array of skills they may not know they possess. In order for students to get to this point, they need to push their limits and do things out of their comfort zone, such as getting on a boat for the first time. That being said, a majority of my effort goes towards building relationships with these students both individually and working with larger groups to create a positive and supportive team.

How has attending and working for Rocking the Boat affected your life or career?

Attending Rocking the Boat as a participant definitely nurtured my love for the environment and shaped my career path. It was a huge influence on my decision to major in Psychology, specifically youth development and education, and minor in Environmental Science. After graduating, I was determined to work with youth in my home borough, and I was so excited to hear about a job opening at RTB of all places.

Being able to hold a staff position within this organization was always a goal of mine. Having both perspectives is not only a part of what I believe makes me successful in my everyday work but is also what makes the work so fulfilling for me. Rocking the Boat was the most exciting part of my teenage years, and now I am humbled to be able to love what I do every day.

About Rocking the Boat

Shortly after being launched in 1996 as a volunteer project in an East Harlem junior high school, Rocking the Boat worked under the aegis of New Settlement Apartments, which provided both workshop space and students for the cornerstone Boatbuilding Program. Incorporated as an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 2001, Rocking the Boat continued to cultivate relationships with a wide variety of community-based, educational, environmental, cultural, and historical organizations, and expand the size and scope of its services. Namely, the On-Water Education Program was added in 2002, the On-Water Classroom in 2005, the Job Skills Program in 2006, Community Rowing in 2007, and the Sailing Program in 2015.

Header image photo credit: Rocking the Boat

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