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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Stamford's young mariners graduate on the Sound

Updated 10:42 pm, Tuesday, June 10, 2014

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  • Gregory Perard helps bring in a sail during a sailboat ride on the Ticonderoga on the Long Island Sound as part of the graduation festivities associated with the Young Mariners' 10th annual graduation ceremony which was held at the Stamford Yacht Club in Stamford, Conn., on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. The Young Mariners Afterschool Enrichment Program is a STEM-based program that helps underserved and at-risk students through the universal principles of sailing. Photo: Jason Rearick / Stamford Advocate
    Gregory Perard helps bring in a sail during a sailboat ride on the Ticonderoga on the Long Island Sound as part of the graduation festivities associated with the Young Mariners' 10th annual graduation ceremony which was held at the Stamford Yacht Club in Stamford, Conn., on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. The Young Mariners Afterschool Enrichment Program is a STEM-based program that helps underserved and at-risk students through the universal principles of sailing. Photo: Jason Rearick

 

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When Ticonderoga Capt. Nat Wilson asked for volunteers to help raise the main sail, Jordan Taylor, 11, raised his hand, almost jumping up and down saying, "Excuse me captain, can you pick me?"

Taylor and 19 of his fellow Young Mariners, came aboard the Ticonderoga as part their graduation ceremony from the after-school program. It's the first time in three years the weather allowed the sailing portion of the ceremony. In all, 120 students in Stamford participated, learning CPR, swimming, boating safety, and navigation in a program designed to reinforce mathematical and science lessons.

Taylor, a K.T. Murphy student, was among the kids who helped raise the sail along with crew members. He, like the rest of his mates, got to steer the vessel, which still made way under the power of the engine on a day without much wind. He didn't want his turn to end, but acceded to his captain's order to turn over the wheel.

"I got to sail a boat on my own. I always wanted to sail a boat," Jordan said. He lamented the fact they couldn't go fishing.

His favorite part of the program was learning about boats he said, though he wants to be a police officer when he grows up.

"I always hear on the news about... people getting shot. If I was a cop, I could stop that," he said.

This is the program's 10th year. In the summer, some of the kids will get an opportunity to learn to sail on the Sound.

The core after-school program, held at six elementary schools and the Yerwood Center, is about providing an introduction to sailing and science, technology, engineering and mathematical principals, according to the Young Mariners Foundation Executive Director Marilyn Shapiro.

The kids got to go out on boats and take water samples. Some learned to swim and others learned to be better swimmers as part of the program, she said.

Back on the boat, Jason Velez, 10, said he was nervous being out on the boat. The first thing that popped into his head when he was asked what he learned in the program was, "I learned about capsizing."

During the year, the kids got a chance to practice how to handle themselves when they capsized in the YMCA pool this year. They jumped into the pool and climbed into a boat.

He said the program was good and he liked it. But he doesn't think a career on the high seas is for him.

"I want to build cars," he said.

Natalie Lopez, 10, of K.T. Murphy, said her favorite part of the program was learning CPR because now she knows "how to save someone else's life."

Upon the calm waters of the Sound, Gregory Perard, 10, and a K.T. Murphy student, took the time to meditate.

After he was done, he sat down with a sigh and Cathleen Trafton, the Ticonderoga's chef, sat down next to him and asked him what was wrong,

"Life," Gregory said.

"Oh, you're too young to think like that," the Cordon Bleu-trained chef and native of Massachusetts said, cheering Gregory up as the two talked.

As an aside, Trafton's grandfather served aboard the Ticonderoga when the 1936-built boat was commissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. She said she learned that when she told her father she had signed aboard to be the chef this summer. Besides studying in France, she has lived in New England, California and the Caribbean.

Gregory later explained he meditates when he feels depressed. He looked out over the water and said it is what he likes best about the Young Mariners program.

"I like water. It's the most strong thing in the world," he said. "A lot of people don't know that. I like how you put water in a bottle and it becomes the bottle."

Gregory smiled at the questioning look he got from the reporter and photographer. "I like philosophy. What you learn, you learn by heart."

Then he was off down the deck to join friends and joke around.

Lila Gentile took her turn at the helm and said it was really fun. She had never done that before.

"It was a really nice experience," Gentile said of Young Mariners. She said one of her favorite parts of the program was taking water samples of the Sound and learning about the ocean and how to keep it clean.

She wants to be an actress when she grows up.

Wilson, a native of Maine, was easygoing aboard the Ticonderoga. He let the kids explore the boat and answered the myriad of questions. And it wasn't just limited to sailing. One kid told him he wanted to be a baseball player, an NBA player or a zookeeper when he grew up.

"Maybe you should pick one," he suggested. "Zoologist sounds good."

As the kids disembarked, Wilson said it was great to have them aboard. "They're certainly enthusiastic," he said. "They were very polite."