THE BRONX (PIX11) — Seventeen-year-old Roberto Martinez isn’t working on a run of the mill high school wood shop project.
In fact, here in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx — the poorest zip code East of the Mississippi River — it’s a safe bet not too many other teens, are building a boat from scratch.
“I love what I do. I love being here. And every day I try to put in the most work I can do, so that way I can just make the most out of myself,” said Roberto.
The non-profit organization “Rocking the Boat” — known as “RTB” in the shop — provides a safe haven from these tough, South Bronx streets.
Prostitution and drug use still serve as both un-welcomed distractions, and a persistent reminder of how difficult life can be here.
Roughly half of this neighborhood’s residents live at or below the poverty line.
“I can still see all the negative aspects of my neighborhood all around me,” said Roberto.
So perhaps you now have a greater appreciation for what happens at RTB, where hardened city kids from this urban jungle actually get the opportunity to harvest the trees from a forest and then, over the course of several months — cut, carve, and drill their way toward a tangible goal.
Robert and his fellow builders will actually launch their vessel into the Bronx River in the spring, as other students have before him.
RTB Executive Director Adam Green says the work taking place here provides a unique opportunity to learn about environmental science, and much more.
“Absolutely. Our tag line at rocking the boat is that we use boats to build kids. We have three full time social workers on staff who help our kids succeed both within rocking the boat, and outside rocking the boat and clear the way for them to be able to benefit from what we’re offering them, and take what we’re giving them and put it to work in the rest of their lives,” said Green.
Roberto Martinez, who lost his own father to the streets – says the journey toward next spring’s boat launch is also chance to beat the odds and, navigate a course – using a sound moral compass toward a promising future.
“They gave me more of a perspective on what’s right, what’s wrong. And they helped me to bring out more of a side of me that wants to be good,” said Roberto.