Last summer it looked as though East Boston would forever lose its beloved community sailing program. At the time, Piers Park Sailing Center (PPSC) was forced to layoff its year-round staff and unless the board was able to raise enough money before sailing began PPSC would have not reopen for the 2017 summer season.
However, the community was determined not to let PPSC sink into the abyss and sprung into action. Through a neighborhood grassroots fundraising effort and generous grants from organizations like PierPac, Massport, the East Boston Foundation and some local developers, the future looked bright for the Sailing Center.
This week, PPSC Executive Director Alex DeFronzo announced that local enrollment has hit 300 youths for the PPSC’s Science of Sailing, Harbor Explorers and a new partnership with the McKay and Otis schools.
“Three hundred East Boston youths have registered for PPSC’s Inclusive Summer Program, more than ever before,” said DeFronzo, who took over the helm of the Sailing Center last year. “Expanded outreach efforts and renewed support for the Center have resulted in many weeks of summer enrollment filling to capacity. In the first session that began in early July students sailed to Lovell’s Island and Spectacle Island. They explored the forts on Lovell’s and got to beat the heat on the beach at Spectacle.”
DeFronzo said there is something unique going on down at PPSC this summer.
“All 22 of our youth instructors grew up in the program or learned through the East Boston High School Sailing Team,” said DeFronzo.
The Sailing Center also has 12 instructors in training through PPSC’s Future Leaders Program. This program allows sailors who have been enrolled in the program for several summers to begin training to become full fledged instructors. In fact DeFronzo, before becoming the Sailing Center’s Executive Director, spent every summer of his childhood at PPSC–first as a sailor and later as an instructor.
“It’s been a place that has brought me joy my entire life,” he said.
For two decades the non-profit community sailing facility on Eastie’s waterfront that offers free programs to neighborhood youth has been taking kids off the streets and into productive programming. The center has built a population of confident youth with social and leadership skills that connect them to their natural environment, their community and to each other. Throughout the sailing season kids work closely with instructors, and learn everything from sailing basics to advanced racing, boat maintenance, and navigation. Besides learning to sail, kids learn how to work as a team, build self-confidence, gain leadership and character skills, and develop a deeper appreciation for the sea and its natural surroundings.